Special History Study
Presidio of San Francisco
An Outline of Its Evolution as a U.S. Army Post, 1847-1990
Presidio of San Francisco
National Recreation Area California
Special History Study
Presidio of San Francisco
An Outline of Its Evolution as a U.S. Army Post, 1847-1990
Erwin N. Thompson
Sally B. Woodbridge
Presidio of San Francisco
National Recreation Area California
United States Department of the Interior National Park Service Denver Service Center
"Significance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder"
Brian W. Dippie
Printed on Recycled Paper
CHAPTER 1: THE BEGINNINGS, 1846-1861 5
A. Takeover 5
B. The Indians 8
C. The Boundaries 9
D. Adobes, Forts, and Other Matters 10
CHAPTER 2: CIVIL WAR, 1861-1865 21
A. Organizing 21
B. Keeping the Peace 22
C. Building the Post 23
CHAPTER 3: THE PRESIDIO COMES OF AGE, 1866-1890 31
A. Peacetime 31
B. The Division Comes to the Presidio 36
C. Officers' Club, 20 46
D. Other Buildings 47
E. Troop Duty 49
F. Fort Winfield Scott 51
CHAPTER 4: BEAUTIFICATION, GROWTH, CAMPS, EARTHQUAKE, FORT
WINFIELD SCOTT, 1883-1907 53
A. Beautification 53
B. Growth 64
C. Camps and Cantonments 70
D. Earthquake 75
E. Fort Winfield Scott, Again 78
CHAPTER 5: THE PRESIDIO AND THE FORT, 1906-1930 81
A. A Headquarters for the Division 81
B. Housing and Other Structures, 1907-1910 81
C. Infantry Terrace 84
D. Fires and Firemen 86
E. Barracks 35 and Cavalry Stables 90
F. Fort Winfield Scott 90
G. Panama-Pacific International Exposition 97
H. World War I and the 1920s . . 98
CHAPTER 6: THE THIRTIES AND THE WAR, 1930-1945 105
A. A Headquarters Post 105
B. Construction 107
C. Works Progress Administration 108
D. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Ill
E. Officers' Club 112
F. Golden Gate Bridge 116
G. World War II 117
CHAPTER 7: THE PRESIDIO, 1945-1990 123
A. Sixth U.S. Army 123
B. Construction 126
CHAPTER 8: THE TENANTS AND OTHER ACTIVITIES 135
A.I. Letterman Army Medical Center 135
A.2. Letterman's Buildings 139
B. Crissy Field 144
C. U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Point 149
D. San Francisco National Cemetery 157
E. Marine Hospital (U.S. Public Health Service
1. The Hospital 162
2. The Buildings 167
F. Fortifications 169
1. Fort Point 169
2. West and East Batteries 169
3. The Modern Era 171
4. Nike Missiles 179
G. Early Water System 180
CHAPTER 9: THE LEGACY 185
Chronology: Geography, Events, and Structures, 1847-1990 191
Sally B. Woodbridge, Glossary of Architectural Styles
for the Presidio Buildings 212
BIBLIOGRAPHY . 245
1. Presidio of San Francisco and the Golden Gate, 1826 x
2. Plan, Castillo de San Joaquin, ca. 1847 x
3. Presidio of San Francisco, 1852 12
4. Plan, Presidio of San Francisco, 1855 15
5. Survey, San Francisco, 1857 16
6. Photograph, Presidio of San Francisco, 1858 19
7. Plan, Presidio of San Francisco, 1861 20
8. Officers' row, Funston Avenue, ca. 1880 24
9. The Alameda, officers' row, ca. 1880 24
10. Powder magazine, 1863 and 1991 25
11. Post hospital 29
12. Plan, Presidio of San Francisco, 1870 32
13. Landscape views, 1882 and ca. 1902 33
14. Enlisted barracks, ca. 1880 39
15. Plan, headquarters, Division of the Pacific 40
16. Plan, first post chapel 41
17. Cavalry barracks, main post, ca. 1893 and 1991 45
18. Officers' club, prior to 1934 46
19. Plan, Fort Point area, 1870 50
20. Forest, southwest Presidio, ca. 1930 55
21. Architect D.H. Burnham's 1905 plan for the Presidio 59
22. Maj. William Harts' 1907 plan for the Presidio 62
23. Lombard Street entrance 63
24. Brick barracks, ca. 1898, and brick BOQ, 1991, main post 66
25. Artillery troops at battery practice, ca. 1901 67
26. Cavalry barracks built 1902 71
27. Volunteer camps, Spanish-American War, 1898 72
28. East Cantonment, ca. 1907 72
29. Map, East and West Cantonments, 1912 73
30. Map, main post and general hospital, 1912 74
31. Officers quarters, Infantry Terrace, 1925 83
32. Fire, the Funston quarters, 1915 87
33. Presidio fire station, 1991 88
34. Barracks 35 (Ninth Corps Area headquarters) 91
35. Cavalry stables 91
36. Officers' quarters, Fort Winfield Scott 92
37. Commanding officer's quarters, Fort Winfield Scott 92
38. Headquarters building, Fort Winfield Scott 94
39. Barracks, Fort Winfield Scott 94
40. Stockade (guardhouse), Fort Winfield Scott 95
41. Aerial photo, Presidio main post, 1925 100
42. Aerial photo, parade ground area, Presidio, 1925 103
43. Noncommissioned officers' club, Fort Winfield Scott 109
44. Noncommissioned officers' housing, Presidio of San Francisco 109
45. Cooks and Bakers school (Presidio post headquarters) 110
46. Barracks 38 (Sixth U.S. Army headquarters) 110
47. Presidio Officers' Club, 1991 114
48. Central Reserve Magazine 115
49. Map, mobilization construction, Areas A and B 119
50. Aerial photo, Fort Scott, Presidio, San Francisco, ca. 1945 121
51. Aerial photo, Letterman General Hospital, 1957 128
52. Map, Wherry housing, 1987 129
53. Noncommissioned Officers' Club, Presidio 134
54. Chapel of Our Lady 134
55. Letterman General Hospital, ca. 1910 137
56. Letterman General Hospital, 1991 137
57. Corridor, pavilion-type hospital, Letterman 140
58. Crissy Field 147
59. Officers' quarters, Crissy Field 148
60. Bachelor Officers' Quarters, Crissy Field 148
61. Commander's quarters, Fort Point Coast Guard Station 153
62. Fort Point Coast Guard Station 153
63. Map, Fort Point Coast Guard Station 154
64. Plan, San Francisco National Cemetery 160
65. U.S. Marine Hospital, ca. 1929 164
66. Hospital, Marine Hospital 165
67. Nurses' residence, Marine Hospital 165
68. Aerial, Fort Winfield Scott fortifications 170
69. Mine loading buildings, Submarine Mine Depot, Fort Scott 176
70. Harbor Defense Command Post, Battery Dynamite 177
71. Presidio of San Francisco, ca. 1867 189
72. Presidio of San Francisco, ca. 1890 190
With research and writing limited to a mere six months, its objective restricted to informing
park planners briefly regarding the overall history and development of the Presidio, with
primary focus on major events and buildings still standing, this history makes no pretense
to being a thorough history of the Presidio of San Francisco. That would require several
volumes and several years work, and could not be done in the short time or in the fewer than
200 pages devoted to this study. This history was undertaken pursuant to Work Order 1,
Presidio Cultural Resources, issued by the Presidio Planning Team, National Park Service,
dated September 21, 1990, with a Clarification of Scope dated February 6, 1991. The National
Park Service expects in the future to undertake a more comprehensive study of the history
of the Presidio of San Francisco.
AAG Assistant Adjutant General
ACP Appointment, Commission, and Personal file (maintained on army officers)
AAQM Acting Assistant Quartermaster
AQMG Assistant Quartermaster General
CCC Civilian Conservation Corps
CCF Consolidated Correspondence File (Quartermaster records)
CE Corps of Engineers
CG Commanding General
DEH Directorate of Engineering and Housing (Presidio)
GCGF General Correspondence Geographical File (Quartermaster records)
LSS Life Saving Service and Life Saving Station
NA National Archives
OCE Office of the Chief of Engineers
OQMG Office of the Quartermaster General
ORS Official Records of the Civil War
PAM Presidio Army Museum
PSF Presidio of San Francisco
QMG Quartermaster General
RG Record Group
ROTC Reserve Officers Training Corps
USCG United States Coast Guard
USN United States Navy
USS United States Ship
WAC Women's Army Corps
WPA Works Progress Administration
The military records of the U.S. Army located in the National Archives, Washington, D.C.,
and in the San Francisco Branch of the National Archives concerning the Presidio of San
Francisco, Fort Winfield Scott, and Letterman Army Medical Center from 1847 on, contributed
significantly to this special history study. My sincere appreciation goes to Archivists Richard
Boyland and Kathy Jacobs in Washington, and Waverly Lowell and Richard Boyden in San
Thanks are extended to Steve Farneth and Cathleen Malmstrom, Architectural Resources
Group, San Francisco, for administrative support throughout the course of the study. Also,
Roger Kelley Brown, Frank Williss, and Carey Feierabend of the Presidio Planning Team, and
Craig Frazier, all of the Denver Service Center, National Park Service, helped to keep the
work on track and almost within the schedule.
For extensive historical resources pertaining to the study I thank many people including
Kristen Baron-Lang, Presidio Planning Team; Regional Historian Gordon Chappell, Western
Regional Office, NPS; Historian Ed Olson, U.S. Coast Guard, Alameda, CA; David Warner,
Chief, and Leila Peete, both of the Directorate of Engineering and Housing, Presidio of San
Francisco, U.S. Army; Colonel Milton B. Halsey, Jr., Executive Director, Fort Point and
Presidio Historical Association; Frank McGrane, former director, J. Edward Greene, Theodore
Shaner, and Cindy Herrick, Presidio Army Museum; and Dr. Martin K. Gordon, Chief
Historian, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Belvoir, VA.
And a special thanks is extended to Sally Woodbridge whose superb knowledge concerning
historical architecture is evident throughout this study. Sally's cheerful sharing of knowledge
was an education in architectural terms, concepts, and history. Finally, I warmly thank Joan
Huff who so skillfully prepared the manuscript on her magical word processor. All these
contributions have assisted immeasurably in the completion of the study.
Erwin N. Thompson
Golden, Colorado, 1991
1. Mexican flag flying over the Presidio of San Francisco, 1826. Drawing by Capt. W. Smyth, British Royal
Navy. National Archives, Still Pictures lll-SC-92835
Plan of the Spanish/Mexican fortification,
Castillo de San Joaquin, at Fort Point, ca.
1847, by Capt. W.H. Warner, U.S. Army.
National Archives, Cartographic Branch
Early in the twentieth century an American army officer wrote that the military post on the
San Francisco headlands at the Golden Gate, the Presidio of San Francisco, possessed great
beauty and probably no other military post in the world had such a magnificent location and
commanding position. Even before then, the Presidio's history had been long and varied.
In 1776 Capt. Juan Agustin Bautista de Anza formally took possession of these headlands in
the name of the king of Spain. During the winter of 1776-1777 Lt. Jose Joaquin Moraga
oversaw the construction of a military camp in a sheltered vale inland from the headlands
and named it the Presidio of San Francisco in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. The garrison's
duties included guarding the nearby Mission Dolores and controlling the Indians of the area.
Also, its commandant received instructions to regulate the coming and going of foreign ships,
be they British, French, Russian, or American.
This coastal presidio marked the northernmost advance of Spain's American empire at a time
of intense international rivalry among Western powers in the North Pacific. In 1793 Governor
Jose Joaquin Arrillaga directed the construction of a fortification, Castillo de San Joaquin, on
the northernmost headland that had been named Punta del Cantil Blanco (White Cliff Point),
which point Americans later named Fort Point, about a mile and a half from the Presidio.
Priests christened and blessed the new work on December 8, 1794. The Spanish Viceroy
considered its cost of more than 6,000 pesos to be quite a large sum.
In the years that followed, storms and earthquakes attacked the mostly adobe presidio and
fort. The small garrison force and Indian laborers made repairs when funds became available.
Ignored by the Spanish crown and the viceroy of New Spain, who had their own problems
in Europe and in the Americas, the Presidio of San Francisco declined steadily after 1810
despite a spurt in repairs in 1815. With the collapse of Spain's colonial efforts in Mexico in
1821, officials in upper California, including those at the Presidio, changed their allegiance to
the new Mexican government which, however, paid as little attention to the welfare of the
northern colonies than as had the viceroy. Then, in 1834, Commander Mariano Vallejo moved
the garrison north to Sonoma, leaving a small caretaking detachment at the Presidio.
During the 1830s the pueblo of Yerba Buena, on a cove east of the Presidio and later known
as San Francisco, slowly grew in size. Its earliest inhabitants included Europeans, Americans,
and Mexicans. In the 1840s the United States government became increasingly interested in
acquiring upper California from Mexico. Anglo residents in the Mexican province, hearing
rumors of war, became apprehensive. Then, in May 1846, the United States declared war on
the Republic of Mexico.
Even before then, in March, Lt. John C. Fremont, U.S. Army, leading a military exploring
party, entered California from the Oregon Country. American residents, with Fremont's
encouragement, "captured" Governor Vallejo (who favored American annexation) in June and
declared themselves a republic (Bear Flag Rebellion). Fremont then took command of the
ragged force and marched toward the Presidio of San Francisco, where his party spiked the
cannon in Castillo de San Joaquin. (The bronze gun San Pedro in front of the Officers' Club
still had the Fremont party's spike in its touchhole in 1992.) About the same time Commodore
John D. Sloat, U.S. Navy, captured the California capital of Monterey and officially raised the
United States flag over California.
For nearly 150 years the United States Army maintained a garrison at the Presidio. In the
beginning the number of soldiers remained small, especially when the California Gold Rush
tempted the men to desert. Nevertheless, the army post in San Francisco Bay established a
federal presence in the new territory during the period of military government and afterward.
Officers surveyed the area and recommended boundaries for military reservations. From time
to time the garrison marched out and attempted to settle differences between miner and
Indian. A Spanish /Mexican adobe from the old regime evolved into an officers' club and
remnants of the ancient structure still reside within the walls of the present building.
With the coming of the Civil War, the Presidio's strength exploded to more than 1,500
soldiers who manned the harbor defenses, marched east and south to quell secessionists, and
assisted in maintaining order among the growing populations in the Bay Area. In the 1870s
and beyond, Presidio troops played a role in the Indian wars in the West, suffering significant
casualties in the Modoc War especially.
Beginning with the large masonry Fort Point in the 1860s, the artillery troops manned the
Presidio's and Fort Winfield Scott's coastal batteries through the Spanish American War,
World War I, and a large array of weapons in World War II. Fort Scott also served as the
headquarters for all the coastal defenses of the Bay Area, from Point Reyes in the north to
Fort Funston in the south.
Between 1847 and 1941, the Presidio's garrison included combat troops in addition to the
Coast Artillery Corps. Infantry, Cavalry, and Field Artillery trained and went forth to duty
when called. During the Spanish-American War and the Filipino Insurrection, thousands of
volunteers and regular troops mustered at the Presidio prior to going overseas. Cavalry
troopers guarded the national parks in California. An infantry brigade, organized at the
Presidio, guarded the troubled border with Mexico 1914-1916. Following the Panama-Pacific
International Exposition of 1915 and World War I, Presidio's soldiers took part in the Siberian
Expedition during the Russian Revolution to rescue a Czech army from the Bolsheviks.
Beautification of the reservation became an important element in the planning of the 1880s
and subsequent years, resulting in the forests and glens of the twentieth century that make
the reservation a place of magnificent vistas and quiet charm.
For a decade in the 1870s-'80s, the Presidio served as the headquarters of the Military
Division of the Pacific and the Department of California. For a short time following the 1906
Earthquake, at which time the Presidio assisted the city in its great disaster and provided
camps for refugees, army headquarters returned to the post, their city offices having been
destroyed. Then, in 1920, the Army's western headquarters returned to the Presidio
permanently. During World War II, the Western Defense Command assumed responsibility
for the defense of the West Coast. The Presidio now became the nerve center for army
operations in the defense of the western United States including, for a time, Alaska. Following
the war, Sixth U.S. Army, headquartered in the huge barracks on the main parade, assumed
responsibility for the Army's operations in the western third of the United States.
The Presidio of San Francisco accommodated a variety of other missions over the years.
Beginning with the Civil War, the Army established a cemetery west of the main post. In 1884
it became the San Francisco National Cemetery, containing the remains of the famous and the
unknown, generals and privates. In 1890 the Treasury Department established the Fort Point
Life Saving Station in Lower Presidio. Its role became ever more important when eventually
it became the sole such station in the Bay Area until the U.S. Coast Guard replaced it with
a new station at Fort Baker in Marin County in 1990.
Near the southwest corner of the Presidio's 1,440 acres stood the Marine Hospital. Established
there in 1875, it provided medical care for merchant seamen of all nations who were stranded
on San Francisco's shores. The hospital, enlarged in 1932, provided such care until its closure
in 1981. Beginning with the Spanish-American War, the Army's Letterman General Hospital,
near the reservation's northeast corner, became one of the more important army medical
institutions in the nation. In World War II it became the principal mainland hospital for the
reception of all the wounded and sick from the Pacific Theater. In the last year of the war,
1945, no fewer than 72,000 patients passed through Letterman. Daily hospital trains carried
them on to other destinations across the nation.
One of trie more colorful tenants of the reservation, the fledgling Air Service of the U.S.
Army, established Crissy Field in the Lower Presidio in 1921. This early army airfield
undertook a variety of missions including assisting the Coast Artillery Corps in the training
of its gun crews, publicizing the glamour of flying in those early years of flight, assisting in
fighting forest fires in California, providing aerial photographs of West Coast cities and
geographical features, and, most unusual, flying archeologists over the Southwest deserts
while they recorded prehistoric irrigation systems and ancient transportation routes.
Construction of the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s brought an end to Crissy
Field, as well as impacting the Presidio in general.
The generations of Army Blue that passed through the Presidio's gates have given posterity
a fascinating history of a strategic, important, and glorious old army post.
CHAPTER 1: THE BEGINNINGS 1846-1861
Early in July 1846 Brevet Captain John Charles Fremont borrowed some rat-tail files
and a small boat from a Yankee trader at Sausalito and with twelve men crossed the entrance
to San Francisco Bay to the southern headlands. Landing at Punta del Cantil Blanco (today's
Fort Point) he occupied the undefended Castillo de San Joaquin. In his memoirs he wrote that
an expert gunsmith in his crew spiked the fourteen "long brass Spanish pieces" they found
at the battery. Perhaps more important than this temporary American occupation of the
ancient Presidio of San Francisco, Fremont named the entrance to San Francisco Bay the
Golden Gate. 1
In early July, also, Commodore John D. Sloat, U.S.N., captured Monterey and ordered Captain
John B. Montgomery, USS Portsmouth, to occupy Yerba Buena (San Francisco). A naval party
of seventy men landed on July 9 and hoisted the stars and stripes in front of the custom
house. Thus ended the international rivalry for magnificent San Francisco Bay. Navy
Lieutenant Jonathan S. Misroon led a small detachment across the sand dunes to the castillo.
After observing the spiked cannon (he said three brass and seven iron) he displayed the U.S.
flag over the fortification. He also visited the abandoned presidio before returning to town. 2
Brig. Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny, veteran of the Mexican War battles, established the
headquarters of the 10th Military Department (California) at Monterey in February 1847,
marking the beginning of stable military government in the new territory. Among his staff
officers one could find such future stalwarts as Henry Wager Halleck, Edward O.C. Ord,
William T. Sherman, George Stoneman, and Philip St. George Cooke, all of whom would
become household names. Colonel Richard Barnes Mason, regimental commander of the 1st
1. John Charles Fremont, Memoirs of My Life (Chicago, 1887), 1:525; Mary Lee Spence and Donald Jackson,
eds.. The Expeditions of John Charles Fremont, vol. 2, The Bear Flag Revolt and the Court Martial (Urbana: University
of Illinois Press, 1973), p. 183. In a letter to his father-in law, U.S. Senator Thomas H. Benton, July 25, 1846,
Fremont wrote that he spiked "six large and handsome pieces."
2. Alcalde Washington A. Bartlett, U.S.N., without authority, ordered the town's name changed from Yerba
Buena to San Francisco on January 23, 1857. Lawrence Kinnaird, "History of the Golden Gate and its Headlands,"
MS (1962-1967), pp. 181-182 and 188; Malcom Edwards, ed., The California Diary of General E.D. Townsend (Ward
Richie Press, 1970), p. 76; Hubert Howe Bancroft, Works, vol. 22, History of California, vol. 5, 1846-1848 (San
Francisco, 1886), pp 238-240 and 241 n.
Dragoons, -joined Kearny's command in February and took charge of the troops in California
while Kearny continued on as military governor until May when Mason succeeded him. 3
Mustered in on August 1, 1846, the 7th New York Volunteers (later, these infantrymen were
renumbered the 1st New York) departed New York City in September, bound for California.
Col. Jonathan D. Stevenson led seven companies (28 officers, 384 enlisted men) into the
Presidio of San Francisco in March 1847. Before the end of April, Stevenson and most of the
complement marched off to Monterey, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara, leaving Maj. James A.
Hardie in charge of a Presidio garrison of ten officers and 164 enlisted men. In addition to
the volunteers, Capt. Joseph L. Folsom, 5th Infantry Regiment, attached himself to the
garrison while he established a quartermaster supply depot in San Francisco.
It took a while for the discovery of gold near Sacramento in January 1848 to have a
deleterious effect on the Presidio's military strength. The post returns for January showed an
enlisted strength of 105 men. By July eighty men were still on the rolls. But a month later
news of the peace treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo reached California; the volunteers who had
not already deserted mustered out and the post's enlisted strength plunged to twenty. Even
that figure was reached only by the arrival of Lieutenant Stoneman and twelve dragoons from
Department Returns, 10th Department, 1847-1851, 8th-llth Military Departments, Territorial Departments,
Office of the Adjutant General, Record Group 94, National Archives, Washington, D.C. Hereinafter cited as RG
and NA; Theodore Grivas, Military Governments in California, 1846-1850 (Glendale, Arthur H. Clark, 1963), pp. 75-78
and 101-109. Because so many writers have stated erroneously that the various higher commands were stationed
at the Presidio during this period, note is made that in addition to the 10th Military Department (California), its
superior command, the Pacific Division (California and the Pacific Northwest) became active in 1849. In February
Brevet Brig. Gen. Persifor F. Smith and his staff arrived in San Francisco to head the division. Smith appointed
William Tecumseh Sherman as his adjutant general and opened an office in San Francisco rather than Monterey.
He located quarters in an old Hudson's Bay Company house on Montgomery Street. But the city's weather was
more than the general cared to bear, "That was a dull, hard winter in San Francisco; the rains were heavy, and
the mud fearful." Before long, Smith decided to move his headquarters to Sonoma. In 1851 the 10th Military
Department, then at Benicia, merged with the Division and the new organization under the title Department of
the Pacific established a headquarters in San Francisco, probably in June 1852. It remained in the city for the next
two years. Quarters and offices for the Department's twelve staff officers, clerks, orderlies, etc., were non-existent
at the Presidio and they sought lodging in the city. In September 1854 the Department moved to Benicia where
it remained until January 1857. Department Returns, 10th Department 1847-1851 and 1853-1857, Office of the
Adjutant General, RG 94, NA; Sherman, Memoirs, pp. 32, 64, and 66-68; B.H. Liddell-Hart, Sherman, Soldier, Realist,
American (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1958), pp. 24-25. Sherman's first description of San Francisco: "and a
more desolate region it was impossible to conceive of."
4. At this time Hardie, a West Point graduate, was a first lieutenant in the regular army. Post Returns,
Presidio of San Francisco, Roll 967, March 1847-December 1859), Microcopy 617, NA, Washington. The first returns
were titled "Post Return of San Francisco California." Beginning in August 1851 the name changed to "Post Return
of the Presidio of San Francisco, Cal." That same return made reference to General Orders 34, Headquarters of the
Army, June 25, 1851, "making changes in the names of certain posts." Nevertheless, on May 24, 1938, the War
Department issued General Orders 3, naming the reservation "Presidio of San Francisco, San Francisco, Calif." See
also Bancroft, California, 1846-1848, 5: 499-515, for additional data on the New York Volunteers; Sherman, Memoirs,
p. 26; and "Historic Preservation Papers," File R-5, Master Plans Office, Directorate of Engineering and Housing
(hereinafter cited as DEH), Presidio of San Francisco (PSF).
Monterey. A company officer wrote in his diary on May 28, 1848, "Last night about 18 men
deserted for the purpose of working in the gold mines nine of them from my company." A
few weeks later he recounted the fate of captured deserters, "Twelve Deserters flogged 49
lashes each." The U.S. Navy took a different tack toward deserters. January 4, 1849, the
commander of U.S. Naval Forces in the Pacific, Thomas ap Catesby Jones, published a notice
in the Alia California newspaper inviting naval deserters who were freezing in the Sierra
winter to return to their ships to receive Jones's "clemency and forbearance."
The remaining months of 1848 brought further drastic reductions and by the end of the year
the Presidio garrison stood at three officers and thirteen men. The following year saw little
improvement even with the arrival of elements of the regular army's 3d Artillery Regiment.
Colonel Mason at Monterey wrote, "Two companies of regulars, every day diminished by
desertions that cannot be prevented, will soon be the only military force in California; and
they will be of necessity compelled to remain in San Francisco and Monterey, to guard the
large deposits of powder and munitions of war, which cannot be removed." He noted that
the Army paid privates $7 a month while a man in the gold fields earned $10-$20 per day.
Mason sighed that he had to prepare his own meals because his cook had deserted for the
Evidence of the Army's weakness became clear in San Francisco in the first half of 1849 when
a wave of lawlessness and intimidation by mob rule swept over the community. Discharged
veterans of the Volunteers and assorted evildoers and scoundrels organized themselves as the
"Hounds" and "Regulators," protecting themselves from arrest but attacking others,
particularly foreigners. The municipal officers could do nothing and the Army was too weak
to intervene. Finally, the better citizens of the city organized themselves into a police force
and arrested twenty of the ringleaders. These were brought before Alcalde Thaddeus M.
Leavenworth, former chaplain to the New York Volunteers, and a degree of law and order
descended upon the community. 6
Despite the urgent need for additional troops in northern California, Mason faced a dilemma
early in 1849. The 2d Infantry Regiment sailed from the East Coast and expected to arrive in
California in April. Although he needed the troops in the Bay Area, Mason directed the
commanding officer in San Diego to retain the entire regiment in that area. If they came on
5. Post Returns for 1848-1849, Presidio, Roll 967, Microcopy 617, NA; Grivas, Military Governments, pp. 126-
127; John P. Langellier and Daniel Bernard Rosen, Bastion by the Bay: El Presidio dc San Francisco Under Spain and
Mexico, 1776-1846 , p. 70; Lieutenant Kimball, 1st New York Volunteers, Diary, May 28 and August 1, 1848,
California Historical Society; Daily Alta California, January 4, 1849.
6. Grivas, Military Governments, pp. 128 and 201-202.
to San Francisco they too would desert. Not until December did a 2d Infantry company arrive
at the Presidio. 7
Capt. Erasmus D. Keyes, 3d Artillery, replaced Hardie as commanding officer in May 1849.
From his pen one learns that five apprehended deserters deserted again in June, "there being
no guard house at the Post." July was worse when twelve soldiers deserted. Also, the
garrison's first death was recorded that month. Two more deaths occurred in October 1849
and May 1850 and a post cemetery came into being. Desertions continued into the 1850s, but
at a reduced rate.
B. The Indians
When the military government of California ended in the last days of 1849, army
forces became free to pay full attention to Indian-miner conflicts. The general attitude
expressed in the mining camps by 1850 called for the extermination of all Indians in
California. The Army found itself in another dilemma, either fight the Indians with whom it
sympathized or protect them from those miners who demanded their elimination. In fact, the
Army in this period remained too weak to do either.
In September 1849, a department officer, Capt. William H. Warner, Topographical Engineers,
who had already surveyed the Presidio and other reservations in the Bay Area, set out on an
exploring expedition searching for a railroad route in northeastern California. Near Goose
Lake, Pit River Indians ambushed Warner and killed him instantly. The record is silent
regarding the make-up of Warner's party and it is not known if Presidio soldiers were in the
escort. About the same time Indians fell upon miners near Clear Lake north of San Francisco.
The following spring the Army launched a campaign against both groups, inflicting heavy
casualties. Again, it is unknown whether the small Presidio garrison (thirty men) took part
in this affair. 8
In the latter half of the 1850s, however, the Presidio's garrison was heavily involved in Indian
campaigns, not in California but in Washington Territory. A most capable officer, Capt.
Erasmus D. Keyes, commander of Company M, 3d Artillery, and commanding officer of the
Presidio from May 1849 to June 1858, successfully led his troops in campaigns against Indians
Erwin N. Thompson, "The Guns of San Diego, Three Centuries of San Diego Harbor Defense, 1769-1988,"
MS (Denver, 1990), p. 11.
Robert M. Utley, Frontiersmen in Blue, the United States Army and the Indian, 1848-1865 (New York:
Macmillan, 1967), p. 175; William H. Goetzmann, Exploration and Empire (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), pp.
in both west and east Washington in 1855, 1856, and in the Wright Campaign of 1858. He
returned to the Presidio following the 1856 fighting, but at the conclusion of the 1858 battles
at Four Lakes and Spokane Plain, duty took him and Company M elsewhere. During the Civil
War Keyes rose to the rank of major general of Volunteers. 9
Presidio troops engaged in one more skirmish before the Civil War. In 1860, a detachment
from Company I, 3d Artillery, joined other units, including miners, to squash an uprising of
Paiute Indians who had become antagonistic toward miners in the area of booming Virginia
City, Nevada. Although about fifty soldiers departed the Presidio, only a handful took part
in the fracas. 10
C. The Boundaries
The 10th Military Department charged the officers of the Presidio of San Francisco to
protect the military reservations in the Bay Area from squatters and claimants. As early as
1848 Mason directed his staff to set aside a reserve that embraced both the Presidio and Point
San Jose (Fort Mason). That spring Captain Warner arrived in the Bay Area and began a
survey that resulted in President Millard Fillmore signing an executive order on November 6,
1850, establishing a reservation of about 10,000 acres. Citizens presented their claims for
portions of this land and in the end Fillmore signed another executive order on December 31,
1851, modifying the earlier one and establishing two reservations, the Presidio's acreage then
amounting to some 2,500 acres. Despite the efforts of the handful of officers at the Presidio,
squatters settled on the Point San Jose lands and on those reserves that had been set aside on
the east side of San Francisco, "Every effort was made by the military authorities to keep off
trespassers, but they were persistent and numerous, and the efforts failed utterly so far as the
Point San Jose Reserve was concerned." The Army occupied the point and evicted all
squatters (including General Fremont) during the Civil War, but it lost forever the eastern
In later years the federal government fought, mostly successfully, to thwart the attempts of
speculators and others to acquire pieces of the Presidio reservation. Adjustments were made,
9. Utley, Frontiersmen in Blue, pp. 191, 194, and 204. Until 1861 "company" was in use for the artillery. From
1861 to 1871 "company" and "battery" were interchangeable. In 1871 the Adjutant General prescribed the term
"battery." The Army Almanac (Harrisburg: Stackpole, 1959), p. 12.
10. Ferol Egan, Sand in a Whirlwind, The Paiute Indian War of 1860 (Garden City: Doubleday, 1972), pp. 179-180;
Gordon Chappell, Western Regional Office, National Park Service, note to writer, ca. April 1991.
11. Keyes, July 10, 1852, to Maj. O. Cross; and Maj. H.G. Gibson, March 29, 1880, to Chief of Engineers, both
in Land Papers, Office of the Chief of Engineers, hereinafter cited as OCE, RG 77, NA.
and easements and permits were granted. Finally, in 1897 the State of California granted the
federal government exclusive jurisdiction over all its lands and ceded title to the tidelands
between the high water mark and a line 300 yards beyond the low water mark. 12 The
Presidio's land acreage today amounts to 1,440 acres.
D. Adobes, Forts, and Other Matters
A visitor to the Presidio of San Francisco in 1846 described the establishment as
consisting "of adobe buildings covered with tiles. The walls of most . . . are crumbling for the
want of care." He examined the Castillo noting that the walls of burnt brick had nine or ten
embrasures. It too was falling into ruins and the guns had been dismounted. The New York
Volunteers left little record of the buildings and other structures they inherited from the
Mexican era when they occupied the presidio and the Castillo in 1847. An unnamed member
of the command wrote, "we were marched to the Presidio, where we found the old Mexican
barracks in a rather delapidated [sic] condition; but in a few days we made quite a change
in it. ... We settled down to drill, guard, and police duty." 13 The soldiers repaired both the
presidio structures and the old battery at Fort Point where they installed armament for the-
defense of the Golden Gate. They also repaired the old road that ran between the presidio
and the Castillo.
An 1849 visitor examined both sites although one cannot always be certain which he
described. October 23: "to go west over the height of ground you come to ware the land looks
as though it would produce quite a crop rightly cultivated, here the old Spanish Fort stands
... the Fort was built of dobes and partly [illg.] down Some long brass [guns?] lays here . . .
our government is a moving one mile further to guard the Entranze of bay There are 40
soldiers at this place." December 9: "You can see cannon and balls on a point where our
government is a fixing a Fort to guard the channel." December 30: "went to the Fort about 2/2
miles West of San Francisco Located on a beautifull spot of ground it was built by the
Spaniards of dobes or mud dryed in the sun there are some cannon & mortars balls & shells
... & out of a redgment of soldiers stationed here there are but forty left the rest have run
away to the mines & our government have to pay them five dollars a day each to stay
12. [Sixth U.S. Army], "History of the Presidio of San Francisco, California," typescript, n.d.
Earle K. Stewart and Kenneth S. Erwin, [no title page, but a history of the Presidio of San Francisco (San
Francisco, 1959), p. 17. Edwin Bryant, What I Saw in California (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press), p. 429.
14. Cosad, Diary, 1849-1850, California Historical Society.
While Volunteer officer Kimball recorded that his men worked on the old Castillo, and
another account noted that the Army mounted four 32-pounders and two 8-inch howitzers
at Cantil Blanco in 1849, the days of the old Spanish battery were numbered. In the fall of
1853 an engineer officer wrote, "An old Spanish redan of brick which crowned the
promontory has been removed & its material secured. The guns formerly mounted in this
work have been removed.
The Presidio received a formal inspection in May 1852 when the War Department's inspector
general, Col. George A. McCall, arrived on post. After evaluating the thirty-three men of
Company M and forty-one newly arrived recruits, he turned his attention to the physical
plant. He noted that the post did not have a hospital and that the surgeon lived in San
Francisco and visited the troops daily. The adobe officers' quarters struck him as being
"tolerably comfortable" but not large enough to accommodate all the officers. He said the post
was in need of a storehouse for quartermaster, subsistence, and clothing supplies. It could be
built by troop labor. He found the enlisted men's adobe barrack rooms clean and in good
order but made no comment on their adequacy. 16
Close on the colonel's heels, Capt. Edward D. Townsend, the newly appointed adjutant
general in the Division of the Pacific, visited the Presidio in June 1852. He failed to be
impressed. Noting that it was two or three miles out of town he decided that it had served
as a prison under Mexican rule, "a place for the gallows, as the name imports, and also a
garrison for a small number of soldiers. A company of U.S. Artillery is now stationed there.
Rows of one-story adobe buildings on two sides of a square constitute the quarters. It is a
bleak and windy situation, not desirable as a station." He added, "There are some small farms,
or rather kitchen gardens, on the road to the Presidio, and the view of the Bay is fine from
the high hills, but every thing looks dirty and sandy; you cannot word [avoid?] the
impression that it is a mean country." 17
15. Kimball, Diary, entries for May and June 1848; Anonymous, "The Presidio of San Francisco, 1776-1976,"
typescript, p. 7 (this document appears to be based on the Stewart and Erwin study); Lt. William H.C. Whiting,
September 15, 1853, to Brig. Gen. Joseph G. Totten, Letters Received 1838-1866, OCE, RG 77, NA.
16. Col. Archibald A. McCall, May 26, 1852, to Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army,
Letters Received 1852, Office of the Adjutant General, RG 94, NA.
17. Malcom Edwards, ed., The California Diary of General E.D. Townsend (Ward Richie Press, 1970), pp. 63-64.
The Presidio of San Francisco.
Presidio of San Francisco in 1852. The adobe building second from the left later became the officers' club.
Only remnants of (he walls remained in 1990. National Archives, Still Pictures lll-SC-91387
A storm blew the roof off of the enlisted men's adobe barracks on New Year's Eve 1853.
Captain Keyes thought it should be replaced with a shingle roof. The outcome resulted in the
Department of the Pacific ordering the construction of a new barracks. May 1854: "The
Quarter Master will, without delay erect upon the ground at the Presidio . . . barracks of two
Stories and one hundred and sixteen feet long for two Companies of Eighty men each." An
inspection by another inspector general, Col. Joseph K.F. Mansfield, about this time verified
the construction plans, "The quarters for the soldiers were miserable adobe buildings, the
leavings of the Mexican Government, but were kept in good police and order. And the
quarters for the officers not much better. A temporary barrack for the soldiers has been
subsequently erected by order of General [John E.] Wool."
The Division must have had long-range plans in mind when it ordered the two-story
barracks. At the time of Mansfield's visit, the garrison enlisted strength, present for duty,
amounted to three sergeants, one corporal, and twenty-nine privates. Present but not for duty
were eight privates sick, nine privates on extra duty, and one corporal and four privates
confined. Continuing, Mansfield reported that "the store houses for arms and clothing badly
ventilated and not suitable." While no hospital had existed in 1852, Mansfield now reported
that a hospital had been established in adobe 4. He wrote that it was "a poor structure, and
it should be levelled as it occupies the ground suitable for drills, parades, etc.," and the store
houses - "worthless." Finally, "a garden exists here, but it was in very bad order and not, in
my opinion, sufficiently large, yet there is land enough." 18
The mid-1850s brought forth other descriptions of the post. A visitor wrote, with some
exaggeration, "The old adobe buildings, and a portion of the walls are there . . . the castle of
the Mexican comandante and the fort are now occupied by American troops; and neat, white-
washed picket fences supply the place of the old walls." 19 A reporter from the Alia California
a couple of years later, in 1857, noted that the Army occupied the old adobe structures and
that new wooden buildings stood nearby. 20
Quartermaster R.W. Allen completed the first detailed report of the American post, together
with a plan, in 1855, "I consider all these buildings excepting those numbered 1 & 2 [1, the
adobe officers' quarters; 2, the new frame barracks] of no value whatever and the Post would
be improved by their removal. They consist of old Adoba walls dilapidated and mouldering
down from age with ponderous leaky roofs. In fact they are nothing now but unsightly mud
enclosures." Allen then described each structure individually:
No. 1, Officers' Quarters. "An Adoba building One story high a poarch in
front, rooms 18x22 feet, a small room in rear of each tenement 7 feet wide, a
kitchen for use of officers. One room used as a mess room; two officers in the
remainder - Capt. E.D. Keyes and Lieut M.R. Morgan."
An early American reference to this structure referred to it as the Spanish commandante's
quarters - a belief that exists today. In fact, this complex of six rooms was the western half
of the south row of the Presidio's structures. Here the Spanish /Mexican enlisted men
established their quarters. Inasmuch as the history of this structure from 1855 to 1990 can be
18. Keyes, January 1, 1854, to Maj. R. Allen, Consolidated Correspondence File, Office of the Quartermaster
General, RG 92, NA (hereinafter cited as CCF and OQMG); AAG E.D. Townsend, May 8, 1854, Special Orders 42,
CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA; Robert W. Frazer, ed., Mansfield on the Condition of the Western Forts, 1853-54 (Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1963), pp. 135-137.
19. Kinnaird, History of the Golden Gate, p. 214. Kinnaird did not name the visitor.
20. Edwin C. Bearss, Historic Structure Report, Fort Point National Historic Site, California (Denver: National Park
Service, 1973), p. 103, quoting the Daily Alta California, Oct. 10, 1857.
fairly well established, the Table of Contents will repeatedly refer to it as Officers' Club in
order to assist in tracing its continuing existence. 21
No 2 Barracks for soldiers A frame building two stories high lower rooms
35x25 feet, upper rooms 40x 25, two rooms in rear used as mess rooms 40x12
feet, but one story high.
No 3 Old Adoba Barracks the dimensions of which are 105x20 feet. It is
subdivided into six rooms, the first 20x20 now used as a guard room. The
second same size temporarily partitioned and used as a prison and Company
Clothing room. The third same size occupied by Laundress. The 4th 30x20 feet
is used as a store house for Quarter Masters property. Fifth 20x15 feet
occupied by Laundress. 6th uninhabitable.
No. 4 60x20 feet Old adoba used as a Hospital. The two adjoining rooms are
No. 5 Old dilapidated adoba unfit for occupation. Corner room 20x20 used as
a stable, the other part of the building of no value.
Allen's sketch shows still another structure on the west side of the complex and within the
walls. The plan states, "Old walls fallen down House of no vlaue." The plan appears to show
porches or galenas in front of structures 1, 2, and 3, and the whole compound may be
enclosed by a fence or wall, or both. 22
Two years later, in 1857, Captain Keyes forwarded to the Department the report of a board
of officers on the Presidio's structures. Of particular interest is the inclusion of nine structures
rather than Allen's five. As for Officers' Quarters 1, which the report called "A", he
recommended that it be given to the laundresses despite the Army having already spent a
large amount of money on it. The wood frame barracks, 2 or "B", remained in good condition
but needed a first sergeant's room and a mess room for noncommissioned officers.
The old adobe, 3 or "C", was still used by married men, storerooms, and guard and prison
rooms; the board considered it to be in decay, dilapidated, and dangerous. The hospital, "D",
"recently erected, "replaced the old adobe hospital, no. 4. The board judged its condition as
good. Block "E", described as an adobe, probably had been a part of the old adobe hospital,
no. 4. Similarly, Block "F", an adobe laundress' quarters, was probably another part of the old
21. Langellier and Rosen, Bastion by the Bay, "List of Illustrations and Figures".
22. AAQM R.W. Allen, March 15, 1855, to Maj. O. Cross, Chief QM, Pacific Division, and Diagram of Public
Buildings at the Presidio of San Francisco, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
\ \i :
4. Plan of the Presidio of San Francisco, 1855, by Capt. Robert Allen, U.S. Army. National Archives, OQMG,
Surveyed by A.F.RODGERS Sub-assis
Section from a survey of San Francisco showing the Presidio and its roads in 1857. National Archives,
hospital. Both E and F were in bad shape. The board described Block "I" as a subsistence
storehouse. Apparently this structure appeared on the 1855 sketch as a temporary kitchen for
the wood frame barracks. In any case it had become too small and rats infested it. Block "H",
described now as the adobe bakery, appears to have been a part of 1855's structure 3. The
rear room now served as the enlisted men's privy and had an offensive odor.
The board recommended the removal of a number of the buildings along the west and north
sides of the post and the construction of four sets of officers' quarters along the east side of
the compound. As for the Presidio reservation itself, it recommended the continued
construction of picket fences on the boundaries so as to keep out trespassers and roaming
Between January 1859 and May 1861 a number of troop units and detachments of recruits
arrived at and departed from the Presidio. Elements of the 4th Infantry, the 6th Infantry, and
the 9th Infantry regiments came and went, but through these months the 3d Artillery
maintained at least one company at the post. The largest complement during this period
occurred in October 1859 when 7 officers and 214 men occupied the post; the lowest number
stood at one officer and twenty-two enlisted in July 1859. In both July 1859 and June 1861,
detailed reports of inspection of the Presidio's facilities arrived at department headquarters.
Although the inspecting officers urged major changes, little new construction took place
before the Civil War. The June 1861 report recounted the fortunes of the now familiar
1A. Officers Quarters. Adobe. Condition - bad, low ceilings, poorly lighted,
badly ventilated, damp, despite spending public money on it in 1847, '49, '56,
'59, and '60. Still six rooms and three kitchens in rear. Occupied by one captain
and four subalterns.
2B. Barracks. Built 1854, a cheap frame structure. Condition - very bad,
unsightly. Four barracks rooms, two mess rooms, two kitchens, and two
3C. Storehouse and Laundresses' Quarters. Adobe. "A portion of the building
was torn down during the year to prevent injury ... to the occupants."
Capacity: sixteen spaces (not rooms) for occupation and storage.
4D. Hospital. Cheap frame structure, built 1857. Condition, fair.
23. Keyes, March 7, 1857, "Proceedings of a Board of Officers," with map, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
5E. Carpenter and Blacksmith Shops. Adobe. Unsightly. Bakehouse in rear.
Condition - dilapidated, damp, entirely unfit.
6F. Laundress' shanty. Condition - very bad, unfit for repairs.
7G. Stable. Fifteen animals. Fair. [H] Harness house now being constructed
with corral near stable.
81. Guardhouse and Office. Adobe, three rooms. Condition - insecure, close,
damp, utterly unfit for use. (Note: this was an adobe stable in 1855).
In conclusion, Lt. Horatio G. Gibson, 3d Artillery, stated that the whole post was "a disgrace
to the Government and an eye sore to the community," and all the buildings should be
Alas for Gibson's ideas; Confederate forces had captured Fort Sumter two months earlier, on
April 12, 1861, thus initiating the Civil War.
24. Gibson, June 30, 1861, to the Quartermaster General, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
f- t- fd e
' e* .
cx/t si +~e /r
w If S
f *-</* i ..f </
Lt. H.G. Gibson prepared this plan of the Presidio in 1861, on the eve of the Civil War. "B" marks the
two-story, wood-frame barracks built in 1854. National Archives, OQMG, RG 92
CHAPTER 2: CIVIL WAR, 1861-1865
Through most of the 1850's the Presidio's garrison consisted of troop units of the 3d
Artillery Regiment. At the same time, army engineers worked strenuously to complete
permanent coastal fortifications at Fort Point and on Alcatraz Island. In December 1859 the
Presidio dispatched its Company H, 3d Artillery, to take charge of those batteries on Alcatraz
that had been completed. Not until February 1861 did Company I, 3d Artillery, march from
the Presidio to Fort Point to take temporary charge of the masonry works. Because of these
developments, additional companies of this regiment arrived from the Pacific Northwest to
strengthen the harbor's defenses as the nation moved toward civil strife. 1
When the war began, April 1861, most of the Army's regular regiments in the West received
orders transferring them east to the fighting fronts. In the Department of the Pacific, however,
the fortunes of war affected both the 3d Artillery and the 9th Infantry Regiment differently.
When the orders transferring the 3d Artillery arrived, they called for four companies to
remain on the West Coast - two on Alcatraz, one at Fort Point, and one at Fort Vancouver
in Washington Territory, all under the Department of the Pacific headquartered in San
Francisco. As the war progressed these four companies rotated among artillery posts, but
nearly always they had the responsibility of defending the strategically important San
Francisco Bay. Ironically, none served at the Presidio during these years.
Most of the 9th Infantry occupied posts in the Pacific Northwest at the beginning of 1861
because of the recent international boundary troubles with Great Britain and Indian unrest.
Then, early in June, the department commander ordered the regiment to move to San
Francisco because the secession movement in California displayed much more activity than
that in Washington Territory. When the War Department learned that the 9th Infantry
company jointly occupying San Juan Island with Britain's Royal Marines under the terms of
an international agreement had abandoned its post, it ordered the reoccupation of the island.
For the rest of the war, the regiment retained three companies in Washington Territory.
Another large detachment from the 9th spent the early years of the war under Capt. John
Mullan guarding military road construction from Walla Walla to Fort Benton in Montana.
1. Bearss, Historic Structure Report, Fort Point, p. 154; Erwin N. Thompson, The Rock: A History of Alcatraz Island,
1847-1872, Historic Resource Study (Denver: National Park Service, n.d.), p. 81. Note is made that the artillery regiments
of that era were fully trained in infantry as well as artillery drills.
Meanwhile/ seven companies had arrived at the Presidio and had begun a "thorough course
of instruction." The department's plans for these troops seemed upset when orders came from
Washington for the 9th and others to take steamers for New York. Within two months,
however, the War Department countermanded these orders and directed the 9th Infantry to
remain on the West Coast. By November 1862 the Presidio's strength had grown to fourteen
officers and 368 men, the result being a spurt in construction near the old adobes.
The Presidio's strength fluctuated greatly during the war as both Regulars and California
Volunteers came and went. The climax occurred in January 1865 when sixty-one officers and
1,654 enlisted men reported present for duty. Col. Thomas F. Wright, California Volunteers,
commanded this array. In the city, his capable father, Brig. Gen. George Wright (Regular
Army colonel of the 9th Infantry) had led the Department of the Pacific through most of the
B. Keeping the Peace
Both the Presidio and Alcatraz garrisons played important roles in maintaining the
peace in San Francisco and northern California and guarding the magnificent bay. The Army
arrested the more ardent Southern sympathizers, administered oaths to the Union, took
would-be privateers into custody, and paraded on the occasions of Union victories. By 1863
San Francisco was mostly a Union town, but army troops, organized into a provost marshal's
guard, served under the chief of police in patrolling and maintaining law and order in the
city until the end of the war. Most of these soldiers came from the Presidio and they
maintained their headquarters at the army recruiting depot on Harrison Street.
2. U.S. Congress, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
(hereinafter cited as ORs), 73 volumes (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), Series 1, vol 50, part 1,
pp. 506-507, 512, 519, 620-621, 645, 659, 730, and 1168-1170; part 2, pp. 505-507, 884-886, and 1272-1274. Company C
had already sailed for New York. The disposition of the Mullan Road detachment remains unknown. Because of one
or both of these outfits, the 9th Infantry received credit for participating in eight Civil War campaigns in the East.
Company C returned to California after the war. John K. Mahon and Romana Danysh, Infantry, Part 1: Regular Army,
Army Lineage Series (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972), p. 257.
3. Presidio, Post Returns, November 1864-January 1865. All the 9th Infantry companies had left the Presidio
by the end of 1864. But its Field, Staff, and Band remained, the band undoubtedly participating in San Francisco's
many wartime parades. Only once did General Wright mention that his office was in the city. Writing to an associate
in May 1862 he noted that a particular company had marched past his office en route to the Presidio for training. ORs,
Series 1, vol 50, part 1, p. 1092. General Wright, who had pleaded to be sent East to fight, drowned at sea July 29,
1865. Colonel Wright, the son, joined the Regular Army as a lieutenant following the war. Modoc Indians killed him
in the lava beds of northern California in 1873. The term "Field" used above referred to the field grade officers of a
regiment, i.e., the majors, lieutenant colonel, and colonel. The "Staff" included the Regimental Adjutant, Regimental
Quartermaster, Regimental Commissary of Subsistence, Sergeant Major, enlisted clerks, orderlies, drivers, and the like.
In February 1864 General Wright learned of a plot to occupy one or more military
establishments. He alerted all post and camp commanders to be on guard and all officers to
remain with their troops at night. Guards received orders to allow no bodies of men to enter
military reservations. This alert, like many others, passed without incident. A month later the
Alta California warned the populace that the Confederacy had a fleet in the Pacific and that
an attack could be expected. Wright warned California's governor at this time that French
naval vessels were blockading Mexico's Pacific ports. Since France sympathized with the
Confederacy and coveted California's gold, watchfulness was in order should the French
The national election in November 1864 brought the troops to full alert once again. Wright
ordered them to be ready for service at a minute's warning during the twenty-four hours of
election day. Also, he said that all troops who were eligible to vote in California should be
encouraged to do so. The following day a relieved general wrote, "The election yesterday
passed off very quietly. No disturbances of any kind. The overwhelming majority for the
San Francisco's next crisis came with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in April
1865. The department issued orders announcing that anyone who exulted over the death
would be immediately arrested. At the request of the city mayor, H.P. Coon, the Army added
four companies to the provost marshal's force to preserve peace and quiet. On the day of the
president's funeral, April 19, army troops assembled at Washington Square and, under the
command of the Presidio's Col. Thomas Wright, marched in the procession. Alcatraz's guns
fired on the half-hour; all other posts fired 21-minute guns. 4
C. Building the Post
At the beginning of the Civil War, officers' quarters at the Presidio consisted of only
the six-room adobe at the southwest corner of the future parade ground. It housed the
commanding officer, four junior lieutenants, and the common mess room. With the arrival
of the 9th Infantry companies and their fourteen officers something had to be done about
additional space. In 1862 the Army constructed twelve wood frame "cottages" along the
eastern side of the original parade. Together, these buildings, which faced to the west, were
4. ORs, Series 1, vol. 50, part 2, pp. 771, 791-792, 991, 1048, 1198-1199, and 1201; Daily Alta California, March 18,
1864; Kinnaird, "History of the Golden Gate," p. 261. Just as the Civil War ended in the East, the Confederate naval
vessel Shenandoah in the role of a commerce raider attacked the Northern whaling fleet in North Pacific waters, sinking
a number of whaling ships. When the news reached San Francisco it created another crisis in terms of fears that the
city and its gold-laden banks would be the Shenandoah 's next target, though no such attack took place.
Officers' row on Funston Avenue. Built during the Civil War, 1862, they originally faced the parade. In
1878 they were remodeled to face San Francisco. Fire destroyed the bachelor officers' quarters at the end
of the row in 1899. National Archives, Still Pictures lll-SC-87845
The Alameda, a luxuriant landscape decorated with rows of cannons balls, marked the formal entrance
to the parade. Quarters 11 stands to the left; a bandstand sits to the right. National Archives, Still Pictures
I I il .Ml 1 1ITT.M
Sec ft on-.
10. Powder magazine built in 1863. Although the roof has changed, the building still stores powder for the
Top- National Archives, Cartographic Branch
Bottom: E. Thompson 1991
single-family structures containing a total of thirty-five rooms. Twelve small kitchen buildings
stood behind them on the east. Although not mentioned in the correspondence, privies,
chicken coops, and wood or coal sheds undoubtedly stood near the kitchens. The future
would bring great changes in their appearance. By 1990 the twelve Greek Revival and
Italianate buildings were numbered 5 through 16.
Just before the war the Army gave permission to a A.W. Morris to construct a house on the
military reservation at the terminus of the Presidio stage route. By February 1861, however,
an initial garrison had been installed at Fort Point and the Presidio commander believed that
Morris would convert the still unbuilt structure into a tavern. He recommended that the
permit be canceled. The department commander agreed and, presumably, Morris changed his
plans. (Already, several structures had appeared just east of the reservation.)
Another building that the post commander wished to be rid of, the telegraphic station house,
stood on the Presidio's highest hill (then called Telegraph Hill, and today called Rob Hill).
This building had served as a lookout station for vessels approaching San Francisco Harbor.
That function had moved to Point Lobos south of the reservation but the house was still
occupied. The commander wanted it removed and it may have been for it ceased to be a
matter of correspondence. 5
Of the original adobes that the Army inherited, the one converted to a guardhouse and which
stood on the south next to the officers' quarters, had fallen into such disrepair by 1865, that
the commander requested the building of a new one. The old adobe remained but a new,
wood-frame, two-story building, completed by 1865, stood on the west side of the parade
ground. An 1879 map identified it as structure 14. 6
The 1854 barracks still housed two companies of enlisted men. On either side of it eleven
wood-frame barracks lined the parade ground's west side. Seven of these, one-story each and
completed about 1862, held one company each. The other four, completed in 1865, measured
120 feet by 30 feet and had two stories; thus two companies lived in each. These four stood
south of the officers' club aligned in the form of an L and had disappeared by 1879. Together
the thirteen barracks housed nineteen companies. (The post returns for June 1865 showed that
the garrison had decreased to 643 enlisted men.) Nine kitchen buildings stood behind the
barracks row. Today's structures 86 and 87 date from 1862. Originally one-story barracks, they
Capt. J.F. Gilmore, PSF, February 28, 1861, to Gen. Joseph Totten, Land Papers, OCE, RG 77, NA.
6. Lt. H.G. Gibson, July 2, 1861, to Post Adjutant, PSF; W.F.R. Schindler, Annual Inspection Report, PSF, June 30,
1865, both in CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
would be converted to other uses by 1879 when the garrison consisted of only 100 men:
number 86 - blacksmith and carpenter shops; number 87 - quartermaster and commissary
storehouse. Today they are connected by structure 85, also dating from the Civil War and said
to have originally served as a blacksmith shop or bakehouse. (The 1865 inspection report
listed a bakehouse,and an 1870 map showed a small bakehouse to the rear of these barracks.)
In 1885 the Army had both 86 and 87 enlarged to two stories. They again became barracks
inasmuch as the garrison had increased to 250 men by then. In 1990 both buildings served
as offices. They possess a simplified late Federal /Greek Revival style while the connecting
unit is a vernacular, astylar structure.
Other structures built in 1862-1864 included:
Nine wood-frame, one-story laundresses' quarters containing a total of thirty-
eight rooms and six separate kitchens. Sited to the rear (west) of the enlisted
barracks and across a ravine where the "new" parade ground (parking lots in
1990) would stand.
Wood-frame, one-story adjutant's office on the enlisted row.
Wood-frame quartermaster and commissary storehouse measuring 80 feet by
Stone magazine, built summer 1863 of rough-hewn stone masonry.
Wood-frame gunshed and four stables northwest of the parade ground. The
stables had space for 200 animals.
Hospital, described as having ten rooms plus a kitchen and a dining room. It
contained no fewer than fifty beds. This structure 2, built in late Federal or
Greek Revival style, provided medical services to the Presidio until recent
times. Standing in line with and at the north end of officers' row, the hospital
faced the parade ground. An ell extended to the east. By 1990 it was home to
the Presidio Army Museum.
In addition to the new barracks (above) the Army built a few other structures in fiscal year
1864-1865: two additional wood-frame, one-story laundresses' quarters each measuring 60 feet
by 30 feet with six separate kitchens, and a shed for stabling mules having a capacity of fifty
animals. Still under construction, a large two-story bachelor officers' quarters containing
thirty-two 'rooms, three mess rooms, and four kitchens, took shape at the south end of
officers' row. In later years its occupants called it the Corral.
The 1865 inspection report did not list the small post chapel, 45 feet by 30 feet, that tradition
holds was built during the Civil War. A photograph taken in 1868 showed the chapel and it
appeared in an 1870 description of the Presidio. Italianate in style, the modest structure stood
at the south end of the parade ground. Apparently built under the auspices of the San
Francisco Episcopal Diocese, the chapel served a Protestant congregation in its early years,
while Catholic priests from the city said mass in an empty barracks. The future would hold
many changes in store for it. 7
The Civil War had brought significant developments to the Presidio of San Francisco. Its
garrison, along with other military installations, had maintained peace and order and assured
the dominance of the Union's cause in northern California. The reservation itself had grown
from a small collection of adobe and temporary wood-frame structures into a substantial
frontier/coastal army post capable of housing over 1,500 officers and men. 8
The first chaplain to appear in the Post Returns was the Rev. Daniel Kendig, an Episcopalian, who arrived
from Fort Steilacoom, Washington Territory, in July 1863. He served at the Presidio until 1888. Post Returns, July 1863
and November 1888, NA; Anon, "Chapels of the Presidio," n.d., researched by Linda Jackowski and Sgt. Jerry D.
8. Schindler, Annual Inspection Report, June 30, 1865, and Annual Report of Additions and Repairs, June 30,
1865, both in CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA. Architectural Historian Sally B. Woodbridge has evaluated the Presidio
structures as to their designs and styles. Her Glossary, appended to this report, gives additional details concerning
11. Post hospital, later called Wright Hospital, built during the Civil War. Here a wing has been removed
and converted to the hospital steward's quarters. Originally facing the parade, it too was remodeled in
1878 to face the approach from the city. In 1990 it housed an army museum. National Archives, Still
CHAPTER 3: THE PRESIDIO COMES OF AGE, 1866-1890
Toward the conclusion of the Civil War the Army made certain changes in its West
Coast operations. On July 1, 1864, Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell, who had not shone brightly at
the battles of Bull Run, succeeded Brig. Gen. George Wright as commander of the Department
of the Pacific. Wright transferred to the District of Southern California where dissent remained
rampant. Then, in August 1866, the War Department established the Military Division of the
Pacific with the Department of California under it. Offices for the two remained in San
Francisco. The sudden death of the division commander, Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, at
work, on March 28, 1870, resulted in the newspaper identifying the headquarters as being at
the corner of Kearney and Sutter streets. 1
For the first several months following the war, the Presidio's strength figures varied greatly.
The Army quickly mustered out the Volunteers, and regular regiments, arriving at San
Francisco by steamer, paused briefly at the Presidio before moving on into the interior
country. For example, the entire 1st Cavalry Regiment passed through the Presidio in January
1866 en route to Arizona. By 1867 the garrison had settled down to its permanent strength
of from 200 to 300 enlisted men, nearly all assigned to the 2d Artillery Regiment. 2
In 1870 the post surgeon wrote up the most thorough description of the post yet prepared.
As of then the enlisted quarters consisted of six one-story barracks, the 1854 two-story
barracks building, and the four 1865 two-story barracks. These last had their kitchens and
mess rooms in their basements rather than in separate buildings to the rear. The bachelor
officers' quarters, this time described as having three stories, was occupied. The other twelve
quarters on the row, each 31 feet by 18 feet and l'/4 stories high, and with water closets and
bathrooms attached, served the married officers. Laundresses' habitations continued to be a
mishmash of structures behind the barracks and across a small stream from them as well as
one of the old adobes which seven families occupied. The "administration" buildings consisted
of the bakehouse, guardhouse, and adjutant's office along the west side of the parade; and
the chapel (45 feet by 30 feet) and schoolhouse on the south end. Other structures at the
Presidio consisted of a wheelwright shop, blacksmith shop, four storehouses, magazine,
gunshed, two stables for horses, and a mule shed.
1. Daily Alta California, March 29, 1870.
2. Presidio, Post Returns, 1865-1877.
12. Lt. George M. Wheeler prepared this plan of the main post in 1870: officers' quarters to the right of the
parade; enlisted barracks to the left; laundresses quarters behind the barracks; corrals and stables nearest
the slough to the north; and the adobe officers' club at the opposite end of the parade, to the south.
National Archives, Cartographic Branch
13. Looking toward officers' row from near the eastern boundary, 1882. About this time, the Army prepared
plans for the beautification of the post. The young trees in the foreground mark an early effort at
landscaping. Lower photo shows approximately the same area about twenty years later.
Top: U.S. Army, Presidio Museum
Bottom: National Archives, Still Pictures lll-SC-92-50-9
Naturally, the post surgeon described the hospital at length: Two stories; 80 feet by 40 feet;
wing, 35 feet by 22 feet; brick basement; porch on [west] front; four wards plus a small ward
for prisoners; hospital steward's room; and a total of fifty beds. Other facilities included a
dispensary, library, morgue [five deaths in 1868, three in 1869], two bathrooms, and mess
room. The basement contained kitchen, pantries, medical storerooms, and a coal cellar. The
hospital library held some 500 books, while elsewhere on the post the 2d Artillery library had
nearly three times as many volumes.
A windmill at the south end of the reservation raised water from Lobos Creek to a reservoir
on high ground. From there the Spring Valley Water Company's flume brought the water to
the vicinity of the post (and beyond), and pipes supplied the various buildings. Sewer lines
on either side of the parade discharged waste into the bay. Last but not least the post garden
now produced more than enough fresh vegetables, including potatoes, cabbage, turnips, and
onions in its ten acres. It was located in the southwest part of the Presidio near Mountain
The citizens of San Francisco began a campaign in 1870 to have the U.S. Congress give the
Presidio to the city, at times for purposes of a park; at other times for park, residential, and
business developments. The Alia California and the Chamber of Commerce strongly supported
these concepts. California's senators quickly introduced bills in the U.S. Senate calling for such
a transfer. One early bill called for the Army retaining ten acres around Fort Point. A board
of army engineers in San Francisco responded by saying that the Civil War had made
masonry forts such as Fort Point obsolete and already plans had been prepared for large
earthen batteries along both the ocean and bay sides of the Presidio headlands (the future
East and West batteries). Furthermore, these works would have to be defended to the rear
against an overland attack. By 1872 those in favor of a park had changed their tactics by
requesting the federal government to lease the Presidio grounds to the city, leaving 300-400
acres for the War Department to develop defenses. After an attempt to ramrod the bill
through the senate failed, the issued died. During the next one hundred years this same issue,
like a Phoenix, rose again and again. 4
The early 1870s encompassed numerous physical changes at the Presidio. Close on the heels
of the surgeon's description, the quartermaster published a similar account in 1872. In
Surgeon General, War Department, Circular No. 4, A Report on Barracks and Hospitals with Descriptions of
Military Posts (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1870; reprint 1974), pp. 443-445.
Daily Alta California, April 7, 1870; May 19, 1870, quoting the report of a board of army engineers; July 1,
1870; January 26, 1872; February 28, 1872, quoting the Congressional Globe; and February 20, 1874.
describing the laundresses' quarters, he wrote that these people were living in four of the old
Spanish /Mexican adobe buildings: one 160 feet by 20 feet and divided into eighteen rooms
(later the front wings of the officers' club); one 87 feet by 55 [sic] feet, into fourteen rooms;
one 45 feet by 26 feet, divided into three rooms; and an adobe 60 feet by 23 feet also having
three rooms. 5
Another report a few months later gave further details on officers' row. It described the
Corral as a two-story building having a basement and measuring 127 feet by 23 feet and a
wing 44 feet by 20 feet. The building contained sixteen sets of quarters of two rooms each.
A kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and a servant's room completed the facility. The basement,
said the report, could be converted into a library. As for the twelve cottages, only eleven now
served as quarters, the twelfth had become a library and billiard room. Three of the twelve
had four rooms and a kitchen on the first floor; eight others counted only three rooms and
a kitchen. The twelfth (later, 10) had no fewer than seven rooms, it being the commanding
officer's residence. All had attic rooms (that did not count officially) and bathrooms.
Correspondence in 1872 disclosed that the Harbor View resort adjacent to the northeast corner
of the reservation was favored by San Francisco's German population who visited, especially
on weekends and holidays, to engage in dancing, shooting, and drinking. The Sutler Street
Railroad terminated there. The proprietor, Rudolph Herman, wished to extend the railroad
to Fort Point "and beyond." The department commander turned down the request because
weekend visitors would damage the earthworks of the new East Battery. He would not mind,
however, if the railroad was extended into the Presidio as far as the barracks. 7
A minor crisis for the post quartermaster occurred in 1874 when the owner of the Presidio
wharf wished to remove it. Writing to the department, the quartermaster requested that the
Army build a government wharf about 140 yards east of the existing one and that it be from
100 to 120 yards in length. Otherwise, the transport of fuel and forage would greatly increase
in cost. In addition, the roads to the city were almost impassable in the rainy season. It took
several months, but the Secretary of War authorized $6,250 for the new work in March 1875. 8
5. Quartermaster General, War Department, Outline Descriptions of U.S. Military Posts and Stations
(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1872), pp. 92-93.
6. Lt. John Simpson, PSF, Annual Report for 1872-1873, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
7. Lt. Col. C.S. Stewart, CE, July 26, 1872, to Chief of Engineers, and AAG Samuel Breck, Department of
California, June 10, 1872 to Commanding Officer, PSF, both in Presidio, Land Papers, OCE, RG 77, NA.
8. Lt. John Simpson, PSF, November 21, 1874, to Department of California, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
The Presidio of San Francisco played an important role in the celebration of the Centennial
of the American Revolution. On July 3, 1876, 100,000 spectators gathered on the Presidio's
hills to witness a day-long display of military might and San Francisco's defenses. Following
a dress parade, infantry and cavalry troops demonstrated their skills in a sham battle, the
Presidio's defenders successfully driving off an enemy attack. The 15-inch Rodman guns at
both Fort Point and Alcatraz fired at distant targets, sometimes hitting them. Naval vessels
fired at a target mounted on a scow, unfortunately missing with all shots. The next day post
trader Angelo Marcian Caspar Beretta planted three eucalyptus trees on the parade ground
to honor the occasion. 9
B. The Division Headquarters Comes to the Presidio
In March 1871 Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, commanding the Military Division of the
Pacific, wrote to the War Department recommending the move of the Division headquarters
from San Francisco to the Presidio. At that time his staff officers lived in the city while
Schofield and his senior aide lived at Fort Mason. To justify the move Schofield stated that
it would save rent and would promote the comfort of the officers and their families. Unstated,
was the movement in San Francisco to acquire the Presidio lands as a park and for other
purposes. The Army's adjutant general promptly replied that the necessary new buildings
would be constructed at the Presidio, but not just yet - no funds. Meanwhile the Division
should prepare plans and estimates for the next fiscal year. 10
Several fiscal years passed without an appropriation. Finally, an Act of Congress, approved
on June 18, 1878, established the Division headquarters at the Presidio. Congress did not
appropriate money for any new construction but funds became available for the modification
of the existing buildings. The problem of crowding was somewhat alleviated by two facts: the
Presidio's officers then numbered around ten; and the Division's and Department's staffs had
been melded into one, totaling about eleven officers. 11
9. Erwin N. Thompson, Seacoast Fortifications, San Francisco Harbor, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
(Denver: National Park Service, n.d.), pp. 113-114; U.S. Army, Ecology Trail, U.S. Army, Presidio of San Francisco
(1980), p. 14. Two of Beretta's trees were later removed. In 1976, the U.S. Army planted a Monterey cypress next
to Beretta's tree to commemorate the Bicentennial of the American Revolution. Beretta's tree was still standing in
10. E.D. Townsend, AG, March 30, 1871, to Military Division of the Pacific, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
11. U.S. Army, Outline Descriptions of Military Posts in the Military Division of the Pacific, 1879, machine copy,
pp. 89-91; Presidio Post Returns, 1878-1879, and Division of the Pacific Returns, 1876-1879.
The Division's quartermaster, Lt. Col. S.B. Holabird, penned an extensive report on alterations
to the Presidio's structures beginning in August 1878. In preparation for the move of the
headquarters from the city, the commanding general, Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell, directed an
extensive remodeling of officers' row along Funston Avenue. The twelve sets of quarters, the
hospital, and the "Corral", that had faced west onto the parade ground were reoriented so that
their fronts faced east toward the city and their backs and outbuildings now looked out upon
the parade - a unique situation for western forts. While unstated, the apparent reason for this
dramatic change was the general's desire to present a pleasing appearance to visitors
approaching the main post and division headquarters from the city. An additional set of
quarters (later, 4) took shape at the north end of officers' row. The Corral underwent a
thorough remodeling, being converted into six seven-room sets for married officers and
retaining six two-room sets for bachelors. Holabird then described the cottages, numbering
them from south to north. Numbers 1 and 2 each had four rooms and a kitchen on the main
floor and four tiny attic rooms. The division inspector general occupied no. 1 while the
chaplain took up residence in no. 2. The next two, 3 and 4, were smaller, having three rooms
and a kitchen on the main floor. Painters were busy in 3 but an unidentified occupant lived
in 4. Number 5 had four ground rooms, a kitchen, and two finished attic rooms. The chief
quartermaster (the author of this report) lived in 6 - four rooms and kitchen, four attic rooms,
and a small attic over the kitchen. The division adjutant general lived in 7, a larger structure
having five rooms and a kitchen on the ground floor, five attic rooms, and an attic trunk
room. Formerly, the post commander had occupied this set. Garrison officers lived in quarters
8, 9, 10, and 11. The post commander was scheduled to live in 12 when the painters got
through. It had recently been converted from a duplex to five rooms, each larger than in his
former quarters 6. The new set, 13, at the north end of the row owed its existence to the
annexes, kitchen, and outhouses that had been removed from quarters 12. It had only four
small rooms, a kitchen, and three small attic rooms. Most of the kitchens along the row were
new and all the quarters now possessed annexes that contained bathrooms and water closets.
A new sewer line ran along the west side of the quarters and emptied into the bay. The east
wing on the hospital had been removed and made into a dwelling foi the hospital steward.
A porch now extended along the full length of the east side of the hospital.
For its headquarters the Division took possession of two barracks, 80 feet by 30 feet, in the
middle of barracks row and converted them and their kitchen buildings into twenty-one office
rooms. Other changes included moving the "battery" barracks (no. 9 on the 1879 map) from
the north end of the parade into line with the rest of the barracks. Workmen moved the frame
adjutant's office from barracks row to near the adobe officers' quarters on the south end of
the parade. Its former space now became an opening for the road to Fort Point. The former
laundresses' quarters, remodeled with porches and fences now housed the Division's twenty
"general .service" soldiers, i.e., clerks and orderlies, and their families. Here and there
extensive wind fences controlled the drifting sand and the never ceasing winds, notably one
fence dividing the old parade ground in half from the Alameda, or entrance, to the new
division offices. Gate lodges, former laundresses' quarters, manned the two main entrances
to the reservation. Finally, grass seed, lupine seed, and barley had been planted to stop the
march of sand dunes across the Presidio. 12
The Presidio's buildings and other structures appeared regularly in army correspondence in
the early 1880s. In 1881 the president of the Presidio Railroad Company requested permission
to run his cars on the reservation as far as the officers' quarters. The company completed the
construction of the railroad in December. It consisted of a steam dummy railroad running
from near the post hospital to the intersection of Steiner and Union streets in San Francisco
where it connected with a cable railroad. It carried passengers only. Three years later the Alta
California reported, "There is no finer trip to be taken by the pleasure seeker on Sunday . . .
than to ride on the Union-street Cable Railroad to the Presidio, Fort Point and Golden
Maj. Gen. John Pope took command of the Division in November 1883. Three months later
he recommended closing all army posts in the Bay Area except the Presidio:
It is scarcely necessary to say that the most important point on the Pacific
Coast is the harbor of San Francisco, and that in this harbor by far the most
important and valuable military possession and position is the Presidio of San
The military post of Presidio has a reservation of about 1700 acres of land. The
principal fortifications and batteries for the defense of the entrance to this
harbor . . . are situated on this reservation, which in the two posts of Presidio
and Fort Point . . . contains now a garrison of one Light Battery 1st Artillery,
2 companies 1st Cavalry and 4 Batteries 1st Artillery. . . .
It seems plain to me that it would be economy for the Government, and a
great benefit to the troops themselves, if the whole military force in this harbor
[Angel Island, Fort Mason, Alcatraz, Benicia], except a guard for the prison at
Alcatraz Island could be established at the Presidio.
12. S.B. Holabird, June 27, 1879, to the Quartermaster General, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA. The commanding
general and his senior aide continued to live at Fort Mason. It is possible that some staff officers continued to live
in the city.
13. President, Presidio Railroad Company, February , 1881, to the Military Division of the Pacific, Land
Papers, OCE, RG 77, NA; Daily Alta California, May 25, 1884. The paper failed to state that the railroad did not
extend to Fort Point.
14. Enlisted barracks, ca. 1880. The headquarters of the Military Division of the Pacific moved from San
Francisco to the Presidio in 1878 and established itself in two barracks, believed to be the two nearest the
camera, and their kitchen buildings. The headquarters remained in these humble structures until 1887.
National Archives, Still Pictures lll-SC-87841
As for the existing headquarters facilities:
In no respect are the quarters for the Staff or the Hd Qrs. buildings at the
Presidio suitable for the purpose. The quarters are insufficient both in
proportions and in character for assignment to officers of such rank, and the
Hd Qrs. buildings for Offices are simply old barracks.
Both the quarters for the Staff and the official buildings are mixed up with the
post buildings and quarters and the Offices of the Depot are in the midst of
the barracks occupied by the troops.
Lt. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, commander in chief of the army, forwarded Pope's letter to
Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln. While Lincoln was not in favor of giving up the islands
in the bay, they "constitute the inner line of defense of the harbor and command the city," he
did recommend an appropriation of $231,000 for a new headquarters and staff quarters. It
was a forlorn recommendation. Neither then nor later did the Congress appropriate funds for
the division headquarters or its successors. 14
14. Maj. Gen. John Pope, February 18, 1884, to the Adjutant General; Lt. Gen. P.H. Sheridan, March 6, 1882,
to the Secretary of War; Sect, of War R.T. Lincoln, March 12, 1884, to the President, all in CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
General Pope and Secretary Lincoln involved themselves in another problem about this time
that involved the post chapel. On August 13, 1883, the New York Times ran an article on
Lincoln's refusal to allow Catholics to build their own church on the Presidio. He was quoted
as having said that his decision has caused "some abuse of me in the newspapers, but I have
not been disturbed by it." He stated that he would not let anyone use government land
without congressional authorization. That fall the quartermaster general, who was responsible
for army construction, wrote, "The old Chapel answers its purpose well; but it is very small.
It is a handsome diminutive structure of Redwood; it was never intended to seat the entire
garrison. The Chaplain is an Episcopalian. Formerly the Catholics used one of the Barracks
then vacant. There are none vacant now."
The War Department then approved $4,000 for the construction of a new, larger chapel
providing it was strictly nondenominational. General Pope was not satisfied however. He did
not believe a new chapel was necessary, "There is already a very nice and well finished
Chapel at this Post . . . the last four Sundays on which I have attended service there, has
never been filled or crowded in any way." He continued, "It is my own observation that
enlisted men never attend service at Military Chapels in any considerable numbers." And
there the matter rested. Local tradition holds that Catholic soldiers managed to hear mass on
the Presidio until, many years later, that first post chapel did become Catholic when a new
Protestant chapel was built, also on the main post. 15
Over the years assistant quartermasters and assistant surgeons had prepared descriptions of
the Presidio's structures that ranged in quality from good to inadequate. Often incomplete,
omitting building numbers, repeating errors from earlier reports, they caused problems for
later users. All that changed in 1884 when Capt. Charles Frederic Humphrey (who entered
the Army as a private in the Civil War and retired as the quartermaster general) prepared the
Annual Report of Buildings at the Presidio on June 6, 1884. He gave each structure a
permanent number, a code that lasted for many years and which allowed his successors to
identify the buildings accurately. He also prepared a thorough description of each structure,
measuring rooms in feet and inches. The report also listed repairs carried out during the past
The records had treated the surviving adobe buildings indifferently in recent years. The 1884
report clearly identified the three surviving structures, all in the southwest corner of the post:
15. New York Times, August 3, 1883, quoting a letter by Sect, of War Robert Lincoln, July 7, 1883; Q.M. Gen.
J.B. Holobird, 13th indorsement, n.d.; War Dept., 14th indorsement, November 15, 1883; Maj. Gen. John Pope,
January 26, 1884, to the Adj. General, all in CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA. The reverend Daniel Kendig was still the
Episcopalian chaplain, having been at the Presidio since 1863.
No. 16, officers' quarters, adobe, 1/2 stories, 86-foot 6-inch front and 43-foot 6- inch depth,
veranda in front 6 feet 8 inches wide, divided into two equal sets of quarters. No. 21, officers'
quarters, adobe, I'/z stories, 30 feet 6 inches by 44 feet 6 inches and a wing 34 feet by 14 feet.
Repairs to 21 during the past year included converting it into a set of captain's quarters,
introducing an electric bell system, and placing tile hearth to grates.
Of special interest was his report on building 20, the old adobe that became quarters for
American officers in 1847. Humphrey wrote that it was now the post headquarters, 160 feet
long and 23 feet wide. It contained the post commander's office, adjutant's office, court
martial room, witness room, library, and three narrow halls. Projections of the main roof, five
feet wide, covered the front and rear porches. The quartermaster said that repairs were
necessary such as cement plastering the outside walls for waterproofing, recasing window
frames, and repairing the roof. He also recommended construction of a frame addition, 55 feet
by 30 feet to be used as an officers' assembly room.
Concerning the original twelve cottages on officers' row, the report noted the various ells,
additions, and outbuildings. The outside measurements of these buildings were 52 feet by 31
feet 4 inches. The Corral's (17) thirty-nine rooms still contained seven sets of quarters each
complete with bathroom and water closet. The chapel, 18, could seat a congregation of 102
persons. The schoolhouse, 19, measured 22 feet 2 inches by 30 feet. This past year the
division's engineer office (two-story, frame, no. 22) had been converted into quarters for a
field-grade officer (major through colonel). The two-story guardhouse, 23, had acquired a new
belfry with bell on its roof. Of special interest was the headquarters, 24, of the Division of the
Pacific and the Department of California. Originally two adjacent barracks, the complex had
now grown to four frame, interconnected buildings: 30 feet by 80 feet, 18 feet by 57 feet, 30
feet by 80 feet, and 18 feet by 100 feet (this last, two stories). Offices held the commanding
general, adjutant general, judge advocate, general's aides, inspector general, medical director,
chief commissary, chief paymaster, chief quartermaster, depot quartermaster, engineer officer,
clerks, telegraph room, photographic room, and mail room.
The Presidio and Ferries Railroad Company had its terminal station in building 53 - one-
story, frame. Gatehouses stood at the Lombard Street entrance, 54, and at 1st Avenue
(Arguello Blvd.), 56. Humphrey even included the residences of the commanding general and
his senior aide over at Fort Mason.
So much had happened to the enlisted men's barracks in recent years that Humphrey's report
gave a concise accounting of what existed in the mid-1880s:
Barracks 30: one-story, frame, 30 feet by 80 feet.
Barracks 32: band barracks, one-story, frame, 30 feet by 80 feet.
Barracks 34: one-story, frame, 30 feet by 80 feet.
Barracks 37: two-story, frame, 30 feet by 120 feet, occupied by Troop M, 1st Cavalry.
Second floor was added in 1884 to accommodate the troopers - today's 86 or
Barracks 38: two-story, frame, 30 feet by 120 feet.
Barracks 72: two-story, frame, 30 feet by 120 feet, occupied by Troop I, 1st Cavalry.
Second floor was added that year to accommodate the troopers - today's 86
The laundresses' quarters of several decades back had either been demolished or converted
by 1884, as well as the status of the laundresses themselves. At the Presidio the "married
enlisted men's quarters" had replaced them:
Quarters 56: one-story, frame, four rooms [this building may have been at Fort Mason
and housed the general's orderly].
Quarters 60: one and one-half stories, frame, 28 feet by 90 feet, three sets of quarters.
Quarters 61: one and one-half stories, frame, 28 feet by 49 feet, four sets of quarters.
Quarters 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, and 69 were all one-story, frame, 28 feet by 60 feet,
and each contained four sets of quarters.
Quarters 70: one and one-half stories, frame, 50 feet by 18 feet, two sets of quarters. 16
The following year, 1885, the War Department authorized construction of four additional
officers' quarters east of officers' row (today 56, 57, 58, and 59). While general prisoners
excavated the basements and foundations, the Army let a contract to one F. Crowley for
$11,000 in December 1885 to construct the buildings. Crowley unfortunately died before
completing the work, the result being that the quartermaster completed construction and
charged the deceased's estate. It appears that the task was completed around August 1886.
Other than a temporary problem with the chimneys, the Stick/Queen Anne buildings stood
ready to house officers for the next century and more. 17
16. Capt. C.F. Humphrey, Annual Report of Buildings at the Presidio of San Francisco, June 6, 1884, CCF,
OQMG, RG 92, NA. As of 1990, Barracks 87 is slightly longer than Barracks 86. A law of 1802 allowed quarters,
rations, and medical care for four laundresses per one hundred (one company) of men. The Army banned the
enrollment of laundresses in 1878. Edward M. Coffman, The Old Army (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986),
17. No signature, "New Officers Quarters at Presidio," n.d., CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
17. Cavalry Barracks 86 and 87 at the main post. Constructed as one-story buildings during the Civil War,
they became two-story cavalry barracks ca. 1884.
Top: National Archives, Still Pictures 92-F-50-12
Bottom: E. Thompson, 1991
18. Officers' Club, before its remodeling in 1934. The walls of the front wings contain the adobe walls
inherited from the Spanish /Mexican period. This is the only structure on the Presidio known to have
adobe remnants. The central wood-frame section that projects slightly was added about 1885. U.S. Army,
Presidio Army Museum
The number of construction projects increased considerably at the Presidio in the late 1880s.
The post garrison increased from 12 officers and 133 enlisted men in December 1885, to 38
officers and 536 men in December 1889. At some point in that five-year period, a date not yet
determined but in 1886 or 1887, the headquarters of the Division of the Pacific returned to
downtown San Francisco.
C. Officers Club, 20
The Alia California in an article on the Presidio, August 16, 1885, described the ancient
adobe at the head of the parade, "The largest and most important [of the three surviving
adobes] contains a long hall which is called the Court-martial room, and with its finish of
solid wood resembles an old feudal hall. The redwood timbers, upwards of a century old,
which had been employed in the original building were found to be in a state of excellent
preservation, the rich natural tone of the wood having deepened and improved by age. The
outside was planed off and a high polish given to the wood and they were placed as rafters
across the ceiling. The walls of the building are between three and four feet in thickness, and
quite put to shame many of the more flimsy structures of today."
That fall the post quartermaster reached an agreement with George H. Walker and James A.
Perry to construct a frame assembly room for the adobe building. The following May the
quartermaster said that the room was completed and the measurements for the whole
structure were: adobe portion 160 feet by 23 feet, frame addition 30 feet by 55 feet, and a
second frame addition 18 feet by 23 feet, condition good. A year later the annual report listed
the following dimensions: adobe 160 feet by 23 feet, four rooms; frame 30 feet by 55 feet, one
room; frame 18 feet by 33 feet, two rooms; and an ell 23 feet by 36 feet, two rooms. 18 In
1888 the Secretary of War authorized yet another addition to the building now said to be the
1st Artillery officers' mess. The addition, primarily of wood, had one door and five windows,
cost $315.76. 19
D. Other Buildings
A surprising complaint about the 1862 cottages on officers' row emerged in 1886. Maj.
M.R. Morgan who occupied one of them complained that his quarters were both cold and
damp and he had to keep coal fires burning year round, "I believe all the quarters of the same
character as mine were put up hurriedly in 1862. . . . The walls consist of two thickness of
plank not tongued and grooved. The planks have been painted but at the seams the paint has
cracked and lets the wind in quite freely."
Another officer inadvertently supported Morgan's complaint. He lived in one of the surviving
adobes across the parade which he believed to be an old Spanish blacksmith shop. He wrote
18. AQM D.D. Wheeler, October 17, 1885, agreement with Walker and Perry; Col. , AQMG, Dept. of
California, Annual Report of Condition of Public Buildings for FY 1886; Lt. H.M. Andrews, Annual Report on
Public Buildings, May 25, 1887, all in CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
19. Lt. J.S. Oyster, AAQM, August 29, 1888, to post adjutant, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA. While the record is
unclear, the 1885 addition was probably the present (1990) wood-frame front portion of the officers' club that was
remodeled in 1934, along with the rest of the building, and later served as the main dining room. Its construction
necessitated demolishing thirty feet of the front (north) and back (south) adobe walls so that this large room could
bisect the adobe structure, somewhat off center, toward the west.
that the house had electric bells, large closets, and spacious rooms, "It was considered the best
set at the Post, embowered as it was in vines and flowers to the roof." 20
As good as Captain Humphrey's 1884 report was, he overlooked several buildings. The
annual report for 1886 added ten of these, bringing the total number of buildings at the
Presidio to eight-eight. Some of these were as insignificant as a water closet, 82; others were
as large as the post hospital, 86. This report also added a new barracks, 88, frame, two stories,
30 feet by 96 feet, and having ten rooms (later, military police headquarters, 36). Next year's
report, 1887, noted that post headquarters had moved out of the adobe officers' mess and into
the division's former offices, 24. It shared the complex with the library and the band. Still
another barracks, 89, had been constructed (also two stories, 30 feet by 96 feet). By the time
of the 1888 report, two more officers' quarters, 93 and 94, stood on the east side of Funston
Avenue. These buildings are today's 51 and 64. Also, that year the Army moved two enlisted
barracks (one story, 120 feet by 30 feet) from the Fort Point area to the Presidio. 21
Two other officers' quarters came into being at the Presidio in the last decade of the
nineteenth century. On April 28, 1888, the post quartermaster submitted an estimate for
converting the tiny post schoolhouse, 19, into an officer's residence. Further correspondence
did not disclose when the conversion occurred, but the building did become quarters. 22 The
other set became the seventh such to stand across Funston Avenue from officers' row.
Constructed in 1893, today 65, and described as Second Empire or Mansard style, the
quarters' construction record has not been located.
A Presidio lieutenant penned a few details concerning the reservation's water system in 1888.
A steam pump raised water from the Spring Valley Water Company's flume, forcing it
through 2,600 feet of six-inch pipe to a reservoir at the south end of the garrison. Another
reservoir, on Telegraph Hill (Rob Hill), also got its water from the flume via a windmill. This
source supplied water for Fort Point and the national cemetery. On occasion it ran dry or the
windmill broke and the Army had to haul water from the Presidio to the fort. Neither system
provided enough pressure for fighting fires. Two other windmills, one at the pond near the
southeast corner of the reservation and the other at an old shaft near the Arguello (then 1st
20. Maj. M.R. Morgan, May 1, 1866, to Division of the Pacific, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA; William Henry
Bisbee, Through Four American Wnrs, The Impressions and Experiences of Brigadier General William Henry Bisbee (Boston:
Meador, 1931), p. 234.
21. Annual Reports of Condition of the Public Buildings at the Presidio, May 6, 1886; May 25, 1887; and
May 22, 1888, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
22. Lt. J.S. Oyster, April 28, 1888, to post commander, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
Avenue) entrance, provided limited amounts of water for sprinkling the roads and for
irrigation. He recommended placing government machinery at Lobos Creek and a new, larger
reservoir on Telegraph Hill so as to give the government sole control over the water.
Angelo Beretta lost his license to trade with the Presidio troops in 1890 when the Army
decided to operate its own post exchanges. He let it be known that his two buildings west
of enlisted row were for sale. The necessary correspondence wound its way to the Secretary
of War who approved the purchase. Beretta's residence, today's 116, became a much-needed
officer's quarters and the store building, after some updating, began a new life as a
E. Troop Duty
The monthly post return had a small space in which the commanding officer could
record significant events that occurred during the past four weeks. Some officers obliged
history by making entries; others blithely ignored that corner of the form. The following items
have been extracted from those who wrote.
After the dust from the Civil War had settled, the Presidio's garrison reduced to about 150
to 250 enlisted men, most often artillery. Beginning in 1886, the post's strength gradually
increased resulting in the construction activity discussed above. The majority of troops
continued to be artillery, but infantry and cavalry companies were present from time to time.
In May 1890 Troops I and K, 4th Cavalry, arrived at the post and, beginning in the following
year, assumed duties protecting Yosemite and Sequoia (including General Grant) national
parks during the summer months. On the eve of the Spanish-American War the garrison
stood at nearly 900 regular army enlisted men - artillery, cavalry, and infantry.
The 1870s brought a flurry of activity in connection with Indian wars throughout the West.
In 1873 four batteries, A, B, K, and M of the 4th Artillery, marched from the Presidio to take
part in the Modoc War in northern California. The Modocs ambushed one particular patrol.
23. Oyster, December 29, 1887, to Dept. of California, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
24. "Post Trader's Buildings at the Presidio of San Francisco," received in Washington March 10, 1890, CCF,
OQMG, RG 92, NA. Based upon interpretation of historic photographs, Regional Historian Gordon Chappell
concludes that Beretta's residence originally faced east and stood at the south end of the laundresses' row about
where barracks 101 now (1990) exists. Having purchased it in 1890, the army apparently moved it farther west
and turned it to face south to make way for constructing barracks 101 in 1895. Memorandum, Regional Historian,
Western Region, NFS, to Files, Sept. 4, 1991.
19. Fort Point, 1870. "Engineer Quarters were offices and workmen's quarters for the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers who were responsible for constructing and maintaining the harbor defenses of San Francisco.
The barracks and officers' quarters near the wharf housed artillery units from time to time. Later, this
area also housed the submarine mine depot. National Archives, Cartographic Branch
When the fighting ceased, twelve enlisted men and four officers, all from these four batteries,
Three years later, following the Custer debacle in the Montana Territory, Battery C, 4th
Artillery, joined the expedition headed by Gen. George Crook in pursuit of the Sioux. In 1877
Battery B, 4th Artillery, and Battery D, 1st Cavalry, went off to Idaho Territory to join Gen.
O.O. Howard's expedition in pursuit of the Nez Perce Indians. A year later Battery B, 4th
Artillery, now outfitted as cavalry, returned to Idaho and Oregon in action against the
Bannock Indians. The last time Presidio troops participated in the Indian wars occurred at the
end of 1885 when Companies A and K, 2d Cavalry, traveled to Arizona to support General
Crook's campaigns against the Apache Indians in the Geronimo campaign.
Through the years Presidio troops partook in commemorating national and local anniversaries
along with the populace. Note has been made of the day-long Centennial festivities in 1876.
Again, on April 30, 1889, almost the entire garrison - five artillery batteries on foot, two
artillery light batteries on horse, two infantry companies, and two troops of cavalry - made
a splendid display when they marched in San Francisco in observance of the centennial of
President George Washington's inauguration. In April 1891 President Benjamin Harrison
inspected the troops. January 1894 witnessed Presidio's soldiers participating in the dedication
exercises of the Midwinter International Exposition in Golden Gate Park. 25
F. Fort Winfield Scott
Just before the Civil War began, the Department of the Pacific instructed the
commanding officer of the Presidio to exercise general supervision over Fort Point, then
garrisoned with the Presidio's troops. By May 1861 two other companies had taken station
at the fort and new orders came down notifying the several posts in the harbor that all were
independent of one another and all would report directly to the department. Fort Point
maintained this independence until March 1868 when it was abandoned. 26
As the Presidio's garrison gradually grew in size during the 1870s, there were several times
when artillery companies were housed in the two Civil War barracks at Fort Point, but no
attempt was made to reactivate it. Finally, on September 16, 1878, two companies of artillery
which had just arrived from Washington Territory officially reoccupied the fort and the
25. Presidio, Post Returns, 1865-1897; Langellier, Bastion by the Bay, p. 167, states that elements of the 4th
Artillery and 8th Infantry went to Arizona during the Apache campaigns of the 1880s.
26. Fort Point, Post Returns, Microcopy 617, NA, for 1861-1868 and 1878-1882.
commanding officer resumed preparing the post returns for this once again independent
Perhaps because of the confusion caused by the Civil War, the fort had not been officially
named by War Department general orders. The first return in 1861 had called it simply "The
Fort at Fort Point." Over the years this had been reduced informally to Fort Point. In 1882,
the War Department rectified the oversight by announcing the name Fort Winfield Scott, in
honor of the deceased commander in chief of the army. 28 Once again the fort was
abandoned when the last company marched out in September 1886. From then on until the
turn of the century the Army considered Fort Point as a part of the Presidio, although the
name Winfield Scott appeared in correspondence concerning maintenance or construction, a
Corps of Engineers responsibility.
27. Ibid., Military Division of the Pacific, Special Orders 122, September 16, 1878.
28. Adjutant General's Office, War Department, General Orders 133, November 1882. The Presidio had a
chaplain named Winfield Scott in the 1880s.
CHAPTER 4: BEAUTIFICATION, GROWTH, CAMPS, EARTHQUAKE,
FORT WINFIELD SCOTT, 1883-1907
In 1859 a quartermaster officer moaned that because both the army and civilians had
cut down "the thickets of scrub oak, etc." for fuel, that "scarcely a tree [was] left for ornament
or use" on the Presidio of San Francisco. In the years following the army planted a few
ornamental trees in the vicinity of the parade ground, particularly along officers' row on
Funston Avenue. Likewise, officers' wives, assisted by the post gardeners, improved their
quarters with bountiful flower gardens and shrubs.
Then, in 1883, the division and department engineer, Maj. William Albert Jones, prepared a
plan for the improvement of the reservation. He wrote "The main idea is, to crown the ridges,
border the boundary fences, and cover the areas of sand and marsh waste with a forest that
will generally seem continuous, and thus appear immensely larger than it really is. By leaving
the valleys uncovered or with a scattering fringe of trees along the streams, the contrast of
height will be strengthened." He continued, "In order to make the contrast from the city seem
as great as possible, and indirectly accentuate the idea of the power of the Government, I
have surrounded all the entrances with dense masses of wood." 2 Besides submitting his plan
to the Department of California, Jones brought it to the attention of San Francisco's leading
citizens and selected members of Congress. All became enthusiastic about the concept and
heaped praise on him. John Langellier pointed out that Golden Gate Park and New York's
Central Park predated Jones' ideas, but "what is significant, however, is that the Presidio
forestation plan represented the first large scale landscaping effort of its type in the Army." 3
1. H.G. Gibson, September 17, 1859, to Lt. Col. C.S. Merchant, OQMG, CCF, RG 92, NA.
2. Maj. W.A. Jones, March 26, 1883, to AAG, Dept. of California, in Jones & Stokes Associates, Presidio of
San Francisco, Forest Management Plan, 1990-2010 (Sacramento, 1990), p. E-4.
3. Langellier, "Bastion by the Bay," pp. 189-190. William A. Jones, a native of Missouri, graduated from West
Point in 1864. Appointed to the Corps of Engineers, he experienced a fairly routine army career until his retirement
with the rank of colonel in 1905. In his personnel records he wrote that he had expertise in "Landscape
Engineering and Forestry." Perhaps the most important event in his career occurred in 1873 when he led a
reconnaissance from Fort Bridger, Utah, northward toward the Yellowstone region. He discovered Togwotee Pass
in Wyoming's Wind River Range, thus opening the Yellowstone Basin to passage from the south. Office of the
Adjutant General, Appointment, Commission, and Personal (ACP) File for William A. Jones, Document File 1884,
4165-4305, RG 94, NA; William A. Goetzmann, Exploration and Empire (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), pp. 409-
Jones' report to the Department of California, dated March 26, 1883, did not indicate why he prepared
it. Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell had commanded the Department of California until October 1882. It is known that
he had an interest in landscaping and parks and after his retirement in San Francisco that year he became a
The Presidio may already have begun a tree nursery by the fall of 1883. At any rate, the post
quartermaster requested that the number of the reservation's civilian gardeners be doubled
to six men, "This number will suffice to attend . . . the trees and shrubs now being
propagated and attend ... to care of plants and grounds of officers' quarters, hospital or
walks, etc." Approval came swiftly. 4
The local newspapers described San Francisco's first observation of Arbor Day near the end
of 1886. School children from both San Francisco and Oakland attended ceremonies at Yerba
Buena Island, Fort Mason, and the Presidio. The 1st Artillery regimental band welcomed the
4,000 women and children who arrived at the Presidio. Adolph Sutro had donated 3,000
young slips and the Army had dug 5,000 holes in the hard ground. Along with the slips
many a child planted "a home treasure ... so as to identify the expected tree of years yet to
On the tenth anniversary of Major Jones' undertaking, 1893, the Army's Quartermaster
Department on New Montgomery Street in San Francisco advertised for 60,000 young
Monterey pines, not less than two years old, to be planted in March 1896. The quartermaster
planned to put them in an area of forty acres along the western borders of the reservation so
as to extend the existing windbreak and ornamental plantations. About that time, in 1895, the
San Francisco Golf Club founded a nine-hole course within the southern boundary of the
Presidio - with the Army's permission - and built a small clubhouse just outside the military
On the last day of 1901, the commanding general of the Department of California, Maj. Gen.
S.B.M. Young, wrote the Adjutant General concerning the need to devise a permanent plan
of improvements for the Presidio. He pointed out that the reservation now contained sixteen
establishments of varied character:
commissioner for San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Jones' report may have been the result of earlier orders issued
by McDowell. When, in 1903, a Presidio board of officers discussed further beautification of the post, it referred
to General McDowell's ordering the planting of trees in the early 1880s. It should be added, however, that it may
have been Jones who influenced McDowell with regard to beautification.
4. C.F. Humphreys, September 4, 1883, to Chief Quartermaster, Department of California, OQMG, CCF,
RG 92, NA.
5. San Francisco Chronicle and Daily Alta California, either November 28 or December 28, 1886. A successful
mining engineer and businessman, Adolph Sutro served as San Francisco's mayor from 1894 to 1896.
6. Typescript from San Francisco Examiner, August 2, 1895, Richard Schellens Papers 34, California Historical
Society; [Presidio Golf Club], "A Short History of the Presidio Golf Club, July 1964."
20. Southwestern Presidio (Fort Winfield Scott), ca. 1930, showing a portion of the reservation's forest that
had its beginnings in the 1880s. The four gun emplacements at Baker Beach are Battery Chamberlin. Also
at the beach the smoke stack of the Presidio's water plant stands near the mouth of Lobos Creek. The
large, barn like building between the forest and the city housed an army balloon used to assist the coast
artillerymen in spotting practice targets at sea. U.S. Army, Presidio Army Museum
Coast Artillery armament Regimental camps
Main garrison Lighthouse
General hospital Old Fort Winfield Scott
Marine hospital National cemetery
Lifesaving station Cavalry and Field Artillery drill grounds
Model camp Small arms target range
Casual camp Water works
Engineer's plant Golf grounds
Professional planning, he believed, should consider the various military missions and at the
same time pay attention to the natural beauties of the scenery. He proposed appointing a
board of officers (the Army's usual solution) to consider the matter and to employ a
"landscape engineer." He had consulted Gifford Pinchot, the head of the Forest Bureau, U.S.
Department of Agriculture, who had promised to furnish such an engineer. The Adjutant
General answered that a board of officers was not necessary, but Young should prepare plans
and submit them for consideration. 7
Following a spate of correspondence between the Secretaries of War and Agriculture, Pinchot
assigned William L. Hall, the chief of the Bureau's Division of Forest Extension, to devise a
plan "for the improvement and extension of the forest" on the Presidio. Hall visited the
Presidio in September 1902 and soon thereafter prepared a lengthy and thorough plan.
As of 1902, trees, mostly blue gum, Monterey cypress, and Monterey pine, densely crowded
420 acres. The whole stand needed thinning immediately. Hall divided the area into six
sections and addressed the needs of each. In general he identified spots that needed thinning,
other areas where additional planting should be undertaken, and the trees most suitable to
each. From his descriptions one learns that today's parade ground at Fort Winfield Scott was
then the light artillery's drill ground.
Contrary to the idea sometimes expressed, Hall did not recommend trees to hide the coastal
batteries from an enemy at sea. He did, however, recommend planting trees to screen
batteries from the rest of the Presidio. He noted that sandy soil prevailed in the southwest
portion of the reservation. Additional planting, such as the maritime pine, would help hold
the soil in place. Since that tree was difficult to obtain, Pinus halepensis (Aleppo pine) could
be substituted. Hall concluded his plan with lists of vegetation to be employed. Trees: red
Maj. Gen. S.B.M. Young, December 31, 1901, to Adjutant General, OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-
1914, RG 92, NA.
gum, Pittosporum undulatum (victorian box), live oak, Monterey pine, Monterey cypress,
maritime pine, shore pine, Australian blackwood, lawson cypress, incense cedar, English oak,
deodar cedar, Pittosporum tennifoliutn (tawkiwhi), and Pinus halepensis.
In addition he recommended the following ornamental plantings in small groups along roads
and walks: cork elm, English elm, ginkgo, magnolia, black cottonwood, black acacia, Kentucky
coffeetree, bald cypress, Bursaria spinosa (box thorn), giant redwood, Cryptomeria japonica
(Japanese cryptomeria), madrona, incense cedar, deodara, lawson cypress, pepper tree,
Pittosporum undalatum, Pittosporum tenuifolium, privet, manzanita, and Eucalyptus ficifola (scarlet
By 1903 the War Department had changed its mind about a board of officers for the
improvement of the Presidio. In January the three-man board reported its findings to the post
commander, Col. J.B. Rawles. Probably referring to the Jones plan, they said that Maj. Gen.
Irvin McDowell ordered the planting of trees in the early 1880s. Between 1888 and 1897 the
Army had planted nearly 100,000 trees on the Presidio at a cost of $58,000 but stopped setting
out additional trees in 1897. Only now had thinning begun, on the western part of the
Presidio. The board also discussed the need for additional roads on the reservation. From that
discussion one learns that the road today known as Lincoln Boulevard was then called
McDowell Avenue and it ran as far south as today's junction of Lincoln and Washington. The
board recommended that a road be constructed from that point to Baker Beach and would
eventually connect with roads leading to Golden Gate Park. Another road the board
suggested would lead from the Presidio wharf to the city streets near Harbor View. The board
also concluded that the swamp north of the main post buildings and the national cemetery
be filled in and a road be constructed along the foot of the bluffs out to Fort Point (Mason
Street?) and the lower Presidio be used as an additional drill field.
Other recommendations made at this time included: that barracks and other buildings be built
in the western Presidio for the six companies of coast artillery troops now at the main post;
that the golf course and other open areas be kept clear for drill; that the stone wall along the
south boundary be completed and an ornamental iron fence be erected along the east
boundary; that a tree nursery be established and the planting of trees and shrubs be resumed;
and that an experienced forester be employed. 9
8. William L. Hall, No. 249, Plan for the Improvement and Extension of the Forest on ... the Presidio of
San Francisco," OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
9. Report of a Board of Officers, Presidio, January 12, 1903, OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-1914,
RG 92, NA. This board consisted of Col. Jacob B. Rawles, Maj. Benjamin H. Randolph, and Capt. William G. Haan.
The board's recommendations bore fruit later that year when the post quartermaster let a
5,000 Eucalyptus viminalis (eucalyptus manna gum)
2,900 Pinus insignia (Monterey pine)
2,900 Pinus contorta (beach pine)
2,500 Pinus maritima (maritime pine)
100 Cypressus manocarpa (Monterey cypress)
100 Acacia latifolia (broadleaf acacia)
100 Acacia lophanta (plume albizia)
100 Acacia melanoxylon (blackwood acacia)
100 Leptospernum lavaegatum (Australian tea tree)
for a total of 13,800 seedlings. 10
Within two years the Presidio nursery contained 25,000 young trees and the Department of
California directed the other military reservations in the Bay Area, particularly Fort Baker and
Angel Island, to acquire as many of these trees as possible, "The desirability, from every point
of view, of covering these bleak hill sides with a forest grove is so evident that it is
considered unnecessary to enter into any discussion." 1 Thus the Presidio's forestation
program began to spread to other army posts in the Bay Area.
Between 1902 and 1906 the distinguished architect Daniel H. Burnham visited San Francisco
to assist the city in its "Improvement and Adornment." On at least one occasion, in 1904, he
went to the Presidio and met with its commanding officer. A record of their conversation has
not been located but it is known that they discussed the beautification of the reservation. A
later account listed Burnham's recommendations:
Arranging the drives and concourses so that the public may enjoy the best views of
Enlarging the present parade ground and locating the post headquarters on its main
10. Capt. D.S. Stanley, Articles of Agreement with F. Ludemann, OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-1914,
RG 92, NA.
11. Brig. Gen. Frederick Funston, November 11, 1905, to the Military Secretary, War Department, OQMG,
General Correspondence, 1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
PLAN Or THE
PRESIDIO OF SAN FRANCISCO. CALIFORNIA.
TREATMENT SUGGESTED BY
Mr. D.H.Burnham. Architect.
Designed in connection with the plans for the beautificalion of
Contour Ir.tirvol- MR
21. Architect D.H. Burnham's 1905 design for the beautification of the Presidio of San Francisco. Army Maj.
William W. Harts included this plan in his own 1907 report on improving the Presidio. National
Archives. Maj. William W. Harts, January 1907, "Report Upon the . . . Development of the Presidio,"
OQMG, RG 92
Creating a vast drill ground.
Creating a great terrace on the west to provide a view of the Golden Gate.
Enclosing the parade ground with terraces of slight elevation.
The 1906 earthquake and fire interrupted Burnham's work, but he later returned to the Bay
Area. Due to his influence, San Francisco today possesses the beautiful Civic Center and the
handsome Park Presidio Boulevard that joins the Presidio and Golden Gate Park. 12
An extraordinary army engineer, Maj. William W. Harts, joined the staff of the Department
of California just in time to assist in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fire. The
following January he prepared his "Report Upon the Expansion and Development of the
Presidio of San Francisco," which may be regarded as the reservation's first comprehensive
master plan. Describing the Presidio as a site of great beauty, he wrote that it "is probably
excelled by no other military post in the world in the magnificence of its location and its
commanding position." "Some [three] of the old Spanish quarters built of adobe more than
one hundred years ago, are still standing although several [two] were recently ruined in the
severe earthquake of April 18."
Regarding the forest he said that a third of the reservation had trees including eucalyptus,
spruce, and pine. Ridges divided the Presidio naturally into three parts. One ridge running
north and south on which the national cemetery stood separated that part of the reservation
devoted to the coast artillery emplacements (the future Fort Winfield Scott) from that part
used for quarters and barracks. A ridge running nearly east and west separated these two
from the portion containing the golf links, Marine Hospital, and target ranges. Present plans
called for twenty companies of coast artillery on their own post and the permanent
fortifications; a brigade post consisting of two regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry,
three light (mounted) batteries of artillery, and a battalion of engineers; the general hospital
with 500 beds; and a mobilization camp that could accommodate five regiments. 13 Harts
proposed moving the life saving station from the bay side to near Baker Beach and to remove
the Marine Hospital away from the Presidio.
12. Charles Moore, Daniel H. Burnham, Architect Planner of Cities, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1921),
1:230-236; 2:2-3; Maj. William W. Harts, "Report Upon the Expansion and Development of the Presidio of San
Francisco," January 1907, OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
13. Even at its maximum growth the Presidio never realized that high a strength which called for 310 officers,
9,833 enlisted men, 2,667 horses, 177 wagons with teams, and 352 buildings.
Only a few of the existing buildings could be considered permanent, all brick: barracks,
gymnasium, guardhouse, bakery, storehouses, and bachelor officers' quarters, the quarters
and the gymnasium badly damaged by the earthquake. Also, three wood frame field officers'
quarters met the test. 14 He regarded nearly all structures in the main post area as
unsuitable, although the original officers' quarters along Funston Avenue could be moved
elsewhere and assigned to noncommissioned officers. As for the East and West Cantonments,
they appeared only slightly better than tents. Even the general hospital was make-shift and
built on the edge of a swamp.
Harts envisioned great changes for "The Swamp," the 110 acres on the bay front. Tides
flooded it. During the rainy season large, shallow lakes formed. A twelve-foot high (at low
water) sand ridge lay along the bay shore. Breaches in this ridge allowed salt water to enter.
He proposed reclaiming the area by filling and constructing a concrete wall from the eastern
boundary to Fort Point, at an estimated cost of $527,000. This land could then be used for drill
grounds, ceremonies, stables, and so forth. Besides, a source of ill health would be eliminated.
Harts had definite opinions on military housing:
It is well known . . . that the architecture of government buildings on military
posts has in the past unfortunately always been of a needlessly plain
character. . . . The arrangement of barracks and quarters in the form of a
hollow square . . . formerly adopted on level plains for self-protection in the
days of Indian troubles, has still been followed in cases where other plans
would have suited the site far better. The use of straight lines for roads . . .
and long straight rows of buildings is still followed . . . partly from custom
and partly from . . . indifference to appearances. The standard double set of
officers' quarters formerly built for economy in heating and to save a small
amount in construction, is still used in spite of the protests of the officers who
live in them.
Harts recommended doing away with the old stock patterns for buildings. Officers' quarters
should be arranged to obtain the best effect of the sun and not exceed two stories in height.
In the future, barracks should be both fire resistant and earthquake proof, and all buildings
should be brick, concrete, or stone, and their roofs of red tile, "It is believed that the best
results will be obtained ... for the Presidio by employing skillful, competent civilian
architects" [rather than officers from the Quartermaster Department].
14. Probably the three sets of quarters east of Funston Avenue, today 51, 64, and 65. Harts did not mention
the two sets of quarters on Kobbe Avenue built in 1902.
23. Lombard Street entrance gate, the main entrance to the Presidio since early army days. E. Thompson 1991
Whether or not Harts read Hall's earlier study on the Presidio's landscape is unknown, but
he had his own thoughts: "Back of all batteries, screens should be cultivated of cypress, acacia,
oak and pine, to prevent unauthorized inspection and the bluff under the batteries should be
protected by setting out shore pine (Pinus contorta), and maritime pine (Pinus maritime).
California live oak should be sparingly set out at intervals over the entire post especially
where acacias do not thrive. Madrono and manzanita may be used . . . along roads and
walks. Hedges of California privet and box may be used in the gardens. . . . Privet may be
also used for back door screens."
Other trees that Harts considered appropriate included magnolias, English and cork elms,
camphor trees, Kentucky pepper trees, and, in low land, Normandy poplars. Lupine,
California poppy, and ornamental gardens should cover the glades. For creek beds, he
recommended sunken gardens, winding paths, shrubs, and roses. As for the old quarry near
the Greenwich Street entrance, it should be converted into an open-air theater for athletic
He noted that handsome, ornamental iron gates with stone gate posts had been erected at the
four entrances to the Presidio. Over the years the Army had constructed a masonry boundary
wall as appropriations had allowed. Mostly on the east and partly on the south sides the wall
consisted of uncoursed rubble, eighteen inches thick and about five feet high. A four-inch
thick coping protected the top. Harts thought the fence should be higher because horses could
jump it. Also, saloons stood outside the gates. Finally, he warned against permitting fences
in residential areas. 15
The year 1890 saw the last of the Indian wars and in the decade following the Army
began closing down the many small posts scattered throughout the west and concentrating
troops into a few large permanent posts. The Presidio of San Francisco, already having a
sizeable garrison, increased its strength fourfold during the next twenty years when it (and
Fort Scott) housed coast artillery companies, cavalry troops, and an infantry regiment:
January 1890 - 35 officers, 506 enlisted men
January 1898 - 39 officers, 885 enlisted men
January 1905 - 42 officers, 1,330 enlisted men
January 1910 - 77 officers, 2,304 enlisted men
15. Harts, Report, 1907. Harts graduated from West Point in 1889 and was appointed a lieutenant in the
Engineers. He served on river and harbor projects all over the nation. During the Spanish-American War he built
batteries and laid submarine mines at Tampa Bay. An exploding mine severely wounded him. Later, he served
in the Philippines. He arrived in San Francisco just in time to assist in the recovery from the 1906 earthquake.
During the following year he developed plans to beautify and enlarge both the Presidio and Fort Mason. He along
with others encouraged the conservative Army to adopt the Spanish Colonial /Mission Revival styles of
architecture in military construction, styles then popular in the California civilian community.
Later, Harts took charge of the public buildings and grounds in Washington, D.C. He supervised the
construction of the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Memorial, and the Red Cross building. From 1913 to 1917 he
served as the military aide-de-camp to President Woodrow Wilson, who said of him, "He has been the most
satisfactory officer with whom I have dealt." After America's entry into World War I, Harts served in France and
again became President Wilson's aide during the 1918-1919 presidential visit to Europe. In 1921 he transferred to
Field Artillery and served tours in Europe and Panama. He concluded his career as a brigadier general and
attending the coronation of the Emperor of Ethopia in 1930. His honors and awards were extensive and included
an honorary degree from Princeton University and honorary membership in the American Institute of Architects.
Office of the Adjutant General, Appointments, Commission, and Personal (ACP) file for William W. Harts,
Document File 1889, Box 1212, RG 94, NA.
Until 1895 nearly all buildings at the Presidio were of wood frame construction and many of
them were considered to be but temporary (the Army's temporary construction often has a
quite long life). That year the post saw the beginning of brick, concrete, and hollow tile
construction of a permanent nature. Brick came first.
Between 1895 and 1897, five brick, company-sized barracks, each with its own mess facilities
(101-105), formed a line west of the row of frame barracks and approximately on the site of
the old laundresses' quarters. A simplified version of the Colonial Revival style, the barracks
had a U-plan, a hipped roof, and a one-story porch with Classical columns of the Tuscan
order across the front. The wood windows and doors sat in brick reveals and had segmental
relieving arches. The moulded roof cornices had simple brackets. The hip-and-gable roof
dormers possessed rolled corners on the front sides; but the end dormers were more typical.
(Shingle-style buildings often featured rolled corners.) Coal furnaces heated these barracks,
resulting in a number of chimneys in each building. Each measured 63 feet by 65 feet and the
wings, 43 feet by 14 feet. One observer thought the barracks were a little too lavish,
overdesigned, and contained "the highest priced plumbing and bath facilities not inferior to
those of a first-class hotel." 16
Six other brick structures graced the post before the 1906 earthquake: the post guardhouse
(210) across today's Lincoln Boulevard from the barracks, gymnasium (122) behind the new
barracks, new bachelor officers' quarters (42) at the south end of Funston Avenue, two
storehouses (223 and 227) on the east side of Halleck Street, and a bakery (229) also east of
Probably considered adequate as built in 1900, the guardhouse later became most crowded.
At one time prisoners had to march across busy Lincoln three times a day to temporary mess
facilities. Colonial Revival /Craftsman in style, the one-story, square, brick structure had a
concrete base cast to mimic stone. Tile covered the hip-and-gable roof and its dormers.
The gymnasium, built in 1904 in a T plan, measured 79 feet by 90 feet and stood two and
one-half stories above its raised basements. Windows and their reveals sat in a recessed, two-
story panel. A raised, wooden monitor on the roof of the rear wing lighted the interior. The
hipped roof with molded cornice and the embossed keystones above the windows indicated
a Classical Revival style for the building. Brick piers, four of which had Tuscan-like capitals
made with brick mouldings, divided the bays of the facade.
16. Langellier, "Bastion by the Bay," p. 196.
24A. . Two of the five brick barracks built between 1895 and 1897 that frame the west side of the main parade.
Photo dates from ca. 1898. The open space in front eventually became a part of the main parade ground.
U.S. Army, Presidio Army Museum
24B. Brick bachelor officers' quarters, Pershing Hall, erected in 1903 to replace the wood-frame BOQ that
burned in 1899. E. Thompson 1991
On September 9, 1899, the old wood frame bachelor officers' quarters, familiarly called "the
Corral," burned to the ground - the thirteenth fire in the building. Probably, a defective flue
caused the blaze. At the time seven married officers and their families and six bachelors lived
in the building. All escaped along with their household effects. Both the garrison fire brigade
and the city fire department fought the blaze but without hope of success. They did succeed
in saving the nearby chapel. The new brick BOQ erected in its place, later called Pershing
Hall, took shape in 1903. The three-story, T-shaped Italianate building had two-story porches
along the front of both east and west wings. 17
Warehouses 223 and 227, built in 1897, the first storehouses (as such buildings were then
called) to be constructed in brick, possessed similar architectural details: one-story,
rectangular, gable roofs, and openings set in reveals with segmental relieving arches as heads.
Described as Colonial Revival /Utilitarian in style, each measured 32 feet by 114 feet. The
bakery (229), also built in 1897, stood one story tall and had a hipped roof and a roof monitor,
also with a hipped roof, and openings with reveals and relieving arches. Massive brick
chimneys stood above its ovens. Utilitarian or industrial vernacular in style, nevertheless it
contributed to the main post's appearance.
Wood frame structures built at the Presidio at this time and extant today included a tower
added to the post hospital in 1893 to serve as a biological laboratory. 18 In 1902 two sets of
wood frame officers' quarters (1302 and 1304) had been constructed on Kobbe Avenue
southwest of the National Cemetery which would later be officers' quarters for Fort Scott.
Quarters 1302 had two and one-half stories and measured 46 feet by 70 feet; while 1304, also
two and one-half stories, measured 71 feet by 85 feet. In the lower Presidio, just under the
bluffs and near Halleck Street, two wood frame storehouses (201 and 204 and later to be
called exchange stores) were constructed in 1896. Each consisted of a long, rectangular, two-
story building with horizontal board siding and a gable roof. Lacking decorative detail, they
were best described as Utilitarian in style. Structure 201 measured 32 feet by 190 feet; and 204,
35 feet by 184 feet.
The year 1902 saw the beginning of a complex of barracks and stables west of the national
cemetery for cavalry units assigned to the Presidio. The first of these structures, a wood frame
barracks 682, was constructed that year. The large U-shaped, two-story building measured
123 feet by 82 feet. Its interior featured brick fireplaces, cast iron columns, and ornate pressed-
metal ceilings. The front of the barracks, which faced the bay, had a two-story porch with
17. San Francisco Chronicle and San Franciscan Examiner, September 10, 1899.
18. Langellier, "Bastion and the Bay," p. 196.
Tuscan columns. The gable roof had returns on the gable ends and a central cross-gabled
section. The gable ends had windows called Palladian or Venetian because of their tri-part
division with an arch over the central section. All these features were characteristics of the
Classical Revival style. Twenty years later, 1923, the Army added two long, rectangular, one-
story structures, one on either side of the main building. The barracks most likely first housed
the black troopers of the Ninth Cavalry Regiment who arrived at the Presidio in 1902 for duty
in the national parks. (Four troops of the Ninth arrived at the Presidio in October. This
barracks could have housed only one troop. The other three were possibly housed at the main
post and, later, in the Recruit (East) Cantonment. The squadron left the Presidio late in 1904.)
At Fort Point/Fort Scott new modern coastal batteries approached completion as the
nineteenth century came to an end. In the summer of 1898 the Department of California sent
plans and estimates for four temporary buildings at Scott for housing a battery of heavy
artillery. It described the proposed structures as most temporary in nature, with no floors, but
preferable to tents through the winter. In November the Quartermaster General authorized
$3,500 for the "repair" of buildings at Fort Scott. It is possible that these structures housed
artillerymen while they trained or worked at the seacoast batteries (the artillerymen played
a role in the mounting of the big guns), the main post at the Presidio still being their
permanent quarters. Additional data on these structures has not been located.
Also at Fort Point stood a collection of buildings erected over the years by the Corps of
Engineers as they constructed the various fortifications. Some dated as far back as 1860, others
as recent as 1896. By 1902 decay had set in and the engineers wanted to tear them down and
sell the lumber for firewood. At the same time they wished to construct new engineer
buildings between Fort Point and the life saving station. The data are sparse, but a 1907 map
of the Presidio showed the new structures. 20
Early in 1906 the War Department directed the installation of a new system of artillery fire
control for the San Francisco coastal defenses. This caused the Signal Corps to ask the
Quartermaster Department to build a brick storehouse near the Presidio wharf for storing the
Signal Corps equipment that would be required. The Secretary of War approved, and that
September the San Francisco depot quartermaster announced that he had moved into a new
19. Capt. C.B. Thompson, Department of California, August 26, 1898, to OQMG; and Quartermaster General
(hereinafter cited as QMG), November 2, 1898, to Chief Quartermaster, San Francisco, both in OQMG, General
Correspondence, 1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
20. Lt. Col.T.H. Handbury, San Francisco, March 4, 1902, to the Chief of Engineers, OCE, General
Correspondence, 1894-1923, RG 77, NA. Note is made that Engineer appropriations were separate from
storehouse. It seems most likely that the new building(s) (frame, not brick) stood near the
Presidio wharf where the depot quartermaster already had two storehouses built ca. 1903.
(Harts's 1907 map of the Presidio showed four buildings on the bay front and just east of the
wharf. He labeled them "QM Storehouses.") 21
C. Camps and Cantonments
War with Spain in 1898 brought rapid changes to the Presidio. Regular Army
regiments and Volunteer organizations mobilized at the reservation prior to departing for
Hawaii and the Philippine Islands. Other Volunteer units arrived at the Presidio for duty,
such as the 1st Troop, Utah Volunteer Cavalry, that patrolled Yosemite and Sequoia National
Parks that summer, the U.S. 4th Cavalry having sailed for Manila. By August 1898 the
Presidio's strength had momentarily grown to over 2,000 men. The Army established Camp
Merriam on the eastern part of the reservation near the Lombard gate. Another camp, named
Merritt, lay just outside the Presidio's southern boundary. It proved unhealthy however, and
a measles epidemic forced it to close. The troops moved to Camp Merriam and to Tennessee
Hollow east of the main post. 22
A year later Volunteers began returning from the Philippines and arrived at the Presidio for
demobilization, and by the fall of 1901 troop strength in the Pacific rapidly declined as
soldiers neared their discharge dates. The Army's adjutant general wrote that the time had
come when a recruit camp had to be established at the Presidio for the training of
replacements for the Pacific. Maj. Gen. S.B.M. Young, commanding the Department of
California, replied that the Presidio could receive and care for 1,000 recruits right away and
another 1,000 in ten days - these in addition to the soldiers awaiting discharge. He said that
he preferred to keep the recruits away from the returnees. He proposed, therefore,
establishing a discharge camp on Angel Island where the weather was much milder than at
the Presidio, especially for men returning from the tropics. 23
21. Brig. Gen. James Allen, Signal Corps, March 27, 1906, to QMG; and Maj. ?, Depot Quartermaster, San
Francisco, September 1, 1906, both in OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-1914. From this time on the San
Francisco Depot Quartermaster, soon to be established at Fort Mason, maintained an ever increasing number of
storehouses on the lower Presidio.
22. Langellier, "Bastion," pp. 235-240; Kinnaird, "History of the Golden Gate," pp. 305-313; Margot Patterson
Doss, Paths of Gold, In and Around the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1974),
23. Maj. Gen. H.C. Corbin, AG, October 14, 1901, to Commanding General, Department of California; and
Young, October 17 and 18, 1901, to the AG, both in OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
26. Cavalry Barracks constructed in 1902 west of the national cemetery. It was the only one of four such
barracks scheduled for this area that was built. It probably held a troop of the Ninth (Black) Cavalry
Regiment that arrived at the Presidio that fall. E. Thompson, 1991
Planning for the recruits' camp got underway in 1902. Maj. Gen. R.P. Hughes, Young's
successor, noting that the Presidio had spent $60,000 for canvas in less than three years,
recommended that a cantonment be built with temporary barracks of rough lumber, double
tier bunks, and small heating stoves, and the cantonment be large enough to house a
regiment. By March 1903 the Quartermaster General learned that construction had reached
thirty-eight percent completion. 24
24. Maj. Gen. R.P. Hughes, May 27, 1902, to the Adjutant General; Memorandum of Provisions to be Made
at the Various Military Posts, July 4, 1902; and Confidential Memorandum for the Quartermaster General, March 4,
1903, all in OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
York Camos. Presidio Reservation. , San Francisco. Gal.
Spanish-American War. Camps of volunteers in the eastern Presidio prior to their departure for the
Philippines. U.S. Army, Presidio Army Museum (W.C. Billington, Photographer Sutro Heights Gallery,
28. The same area a few years later, ca. 1907, when East Cantonment replaced the wartime camps. Letterman
General Hospital is in the middle distance. National Archives, Cartographic Branch
29. Map, East (left of Lyon Street) and West Cantonments, 1912. National Archives, Cartographic Branch
30. Presidio of San Francisco, 1912, showing the main post, parade ground, genera! hospital, stables and
corrals, and part of the area set aside for the forthcoming Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
National Archives, Cartographic Branch
Located south of the Lombard Gate on the site of former Camp Merriam, the cantonment
occupied two areas that were separated by a low ridge. Before long they became known as
East and West Cantonments but for now the name Infantry Cantonment applied to both. In
1904 a description of the Presidio listed the approximately 115 structures in the cantonment.
They included twenty-four officers' quarters, bachelor officers' quarters for forty-two persons,
five noncommissioned officers' quarters, forty-two barracks of both one and two stories, two
band barracks and a practice room, an emergency hospital and a dispensary, headquarters
buildings, chapel and reading room, two schoolhouses, post exchange, mess halls,
guardhouse, bakehouse, and several storehouses and workshops. Temporary in nature and
the scene of numerous roof fires and other problems over the years, only four of the buildings
remain (563, 567, 569, and 572), all said to have been enlisted barracks. 25
That same 1904 description noted the structures at the Presidio's main post, both above and
below the bluffs: twenty-seven officers' quarters; four noncommissioned officers' quarters;
nine one-story barracks and five two-story barracks (room for up to 1,265 men); hospital and
hospital steward's quarters, post headquarters (still the 24 complex); assembly room (officers'
club); post exchange; post guardhouse; kitchens and messes; quartermaster, ordnance,
subsistence, and forage storehouses; stables and veterinary hospital; bakeries; pumping works;
shops; various sheds; and a bandstand. At Fort Point there remained an officer's quarters,
barracks, and a couple of ordnance buildings. 26
In 1905 the San Francisco Golf Club abandoned the Presidio golf course for more prestigious
links. On its heels came a citizens' Presidio Golf Club that took over the old clubhouse and
arranged with the Army to play on the Presidio course. Five years later the Club arranged
for the course to be enlarged to eighteen holes. 27
On April 18, 1906, the San Francisco depot quartermaster sent a telegram to
25. OQMG, Outline Description of Military Posts and Reservations in the United States and Alaska (Washington:
Government Printing Office, 1904), p. 381. Today all four are described as enlisted men's barracks without messes.
It is possible that 567, because of its small size, was a mess hall for the barracks. It was built in 1909.
27. "A Short History of the Presidio Golf Club," pp. 3-7.
Terrible earthquake at 5:15 this morning buildings on fire all over lower part
of city no water Mission street quartermaster and commissary depots burned
to the ground office building and storehouse 36 New Montgomery St now on
fire small hope of saving 28
Maj. Gen. Adolphus W. Greely, commanding the Army's Pacific Division, had gone East only
a few days before on leave and Brig. Gen. Frederick Funston, Department of California,
assumed command of the situation in Greely's stead. A hero from Philippine duty, Funston
lived at 1310 Washington Street near Nob Hill. He immediately walked to the top of the hill
from where he could see several fires in downtown San Francisco. He next went to the army
stables on Pine Street from where he sent messages to Fort Mason and the Presidio to report
with their troops to the city's chief of police at the Hall of Justice on Portsmouth Square.
After warning his own family to flee (their house burned), he proceeded to the department
headquarters in the Phelan Building at Market and O'Farrell streets. While department clerks
were removing records another severe shock occurred at 8 a.m. Funston ordered his people
to forget the records and to leave the building. 29
Fire destroyed both the Phelan and Grant buildings and on April 19 Funston established an
emergency headquarters at Fort Mason, employing the staffs of both the division and the
department. There, San Francisco's mayor, Eugene E. Schmitz, also established an emergency
team of citizens. By April 21 most fires were under control and supplies of all types began
arriving in the Bay Area from army posts and depots from as far east as Philadelphia. General
Greely returned to San Francisco on April 22. He assumed command of the Army's relief
2*. Quartermaster Maj. C.A. Devol, San Francisco, April 18, 1906, to QMG, OQMG, General Correspondence
1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
29. Frederick Funston, "How the Army Worked to Save San Francisco," Cosmopolitan Magazine 41 (July 1906):
239-48. At the time of the earthquake the Army rented the following properties in San Francisco:
Quartermaster and Supply Depot, 649-657 Mission Street
Subsistence Storehouse, 40-42 and 44 Spear Street
Quartermaster Storehouse, Folsom and Spear Streets
Quartermaster Stables, 1221 Pine Street
Headquarters, Department of California, Phelan Building
Headquarters, Division of the Pacific, Grant Building
Quartermaster offices, New Montgomery Street
Recruiting Station, Rialto Building
Transport Service, wharf, Folsom Street
"List of Property Rented in San Francisco," April 23, 1906, OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
operations and relegated Funston to military operations only. (Some critics felt that Greely
took exception to some of Funston's decisions, such as his imposition of near-martial law.) 30
On May 2 and 3 the headquarters of both the Department of California and the Pacific
Division moved from overcrowded Fort Mason to the Presidio. Greely chose the recruit
cantonment (where 1,500 refugees had already sought shelter) for his headquarters, while
Funston set up in Tennessee Hollow. Later, when Greely wrote his own account of the
earthquake he recorded that of the permanent relief camps under military control, the
Presidio sheltered four, numbered 1, 2, 3 (Chinese), and 4. Fort Mason organized number 15
in its southwest corner, while Camp 9 stood kitty-corner from Mason in Lobos Square. The
Presidio camps alone had a population of 16,000. Three military districts had been established
to oversee the relief efforts: No. 1 at the Presidio, No. 2 at Golden Gate Park, and No. 3 at
Fort Mason. 31
By May 1 the Army had inventoried the several posts in the Bay Area concerning earthquake
damage. Most of them experienced very little. The most damage occurred at the Presidio and
the U.S. Army (Letterman) General Hospital.
Posts Immediate Needs Ultimate Needs Total
Presidio of San Francisco $42,000 $83,320 $127,320
General Hospital 30,000 45,000 75,000
Immediate needs included chimney and roof repairs, but not plastering repairs. The most
severe damage occurred to the relatively new brick buildings, especially the bachelor officers'
quarters (42) and gymnasium (122). The Officers' Club and Mess (then, 20), for example,
required repairs to chimneys, roof, underpinning, plaster, and walls.
At the time of the quake three adobes remained at the Presidio: Quarters 16 and Quarters 21
and the Officers' Club 20. In May a board of officers met to report on the condition of the two
sets of quarters. They found that the north and south gable walls of Quarters 16 had fallen
out; other parts of the walls threatened to fall; and the east (front) wall was badly cracked
30. Greely, April 23, 1906, to the Military Secretary, War Department, OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-
1914, RG 92, NA; Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts, The San Francisco Earthquake (New York: Stein and Day,
1971), p. 273.
31. Adolphus W. Greely, Earthquake in California, April 18, 1906, Special Report on the Relief Operations Conducted
by the Military Authorities of the United States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906), pp. 1-9; Presidial
Weekly Clarion, April 27, 1906.
and in danger of falling. Quarters 21 had fared the same; the south end had partly fallen out
and severe cracks in the north and east walls threatened them with collapse. The officers
concluded that both buildings were too dangerous for occupancy and too badly damaged for
repair. They recommended that both be condemned and torn down. Thus it came about that
only one adobe, Officers' Club, from the Spanish /Mexican era remained at the Presidio. 32
E. Fort Winfield Scott, Again
As the modern, concrete and earth coastal fortifications neared completion on the
Presidio's bay and ocean fronts - eighteen batteries - the Army began planning for quarters
and administrative buildings on the west side of the Presidio reservation, an area that would
be formally named Fort Winfield Scott, enlarging the original Fort Scott or Fort Point. Even
before the earthquake, plans and specifications had been prepared for the new post. By 1906
several people began arguing for "the Spanish Mission style" of architecture for new
construction at both the Presidio and Fort Mason: Maj. William W. Harts, who prepared plans
for improvement for both posts; the architectural firm of Rankin, Kellogg, and Crane, who
would be designing the port of embarkation at Mason; and Maj. C.A. Devol, who had been
the depot quartermaster in San Francisco and who was now a voice on the General Staff in
Washington. Shortly after the earthquake the Quartermaster General wrote that any
construction for the coast artillery was being held up pending a decision by the War
Department whether to build standard structures or to conform to the Spanish Mission style.
Because of the earthquake, he recommended that Fort Scott's construction be deferred and
the funds ($245,000) be used elsewhere. Harts completed his report in January 1907 in which
he called for, among other things, red tile roofs for future construction. Devol, on a visit to
San Francisco in August 1907, wrote that, "the plan of the buildings in the old Spanish style
with tile roofs appears to be a good one, and the plant should be an ornament to the Pacific
32. Chief Quartermaster, Department of California, May 1, 1906, to QMG; Proceedings of a Board of Officers
convened at the Presidio of San Francisco, May 18, 1906; and J.L. Clem, Department of California, June 20, 1906,
Report on Earthquake Damage, all Posts, all in OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-1914, RG 92, NA. The
Department of California did not estimate damages to Fort Point inasmuch as the Corps of Engineers continued
to be responsible for its upkeep. Fort Point's south wall had moved outward fifteen inches at the top, rendering
it unsafe as a barracks.
33. Quartermaster General, April 20, 1906, to the Military Secretary, War Department; Maj. A.C. Devol,
September 21, 1907, to the Inspector General, War Department, both in OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-
1914, RG 92, NA.
Thus the Army departed from following standard plans when it came to building the new
barracks and administrative buildings at Fort Winfield Scott. Officers' quarters on Kobbe
Avenue, where construction had already occurred, continued to be built according to standard
CHAPTER 5: THE PRESIDIO AND THE FORT, 1906-1930
A. A Headquarters for the Division
Fire having destroyed their rented offices in the city, both the division and the
department installed temporary facilities in the rough structures in the recruit training area
of the Infantry Cantonment. By the end of 1907 the "Depot of Recruits" had moved to Angel
Island and their former area at the Presidio became known as East and West Cantonments.
Maj. William Harts now prepared detailed plans for a new office building for both
headquarters. He recommended that a two-story, 100-room structure be erected at the
southwest corner of Fort Mason and he estimated the cost of this concrete, "mission" styled
building with its red tile roof at slightly over $1 million. 1
General Funston strongly supported Harts' plans, particularly because rents were
skyrocketing in reconstructed San Francisco. In the end, the War Department disapproved of
the Fort Mason site because the Quartermaster Department had begun planning for it to
become a permanent supply depot for army installations on the West Coast as well as for
Hawaii, the Philippines, and Alaska. Neither did the Presidio consider itself to have sufficient
open space for such a building at that time. As a result, army headquarters returned to rented
floors in the Chronicle Building in downtown San Francisco by the end of 1908. 2
B. Housing and Other Structures 1907-1910
By 1907 the Presidio's strength had grown so extensively that General Funston felt
compelled to write the War Department at length to describe the deplorable conditions of
enlisted housing. At that time the garrison consisted of fifteen companies of Coast Artillery,
three batteries of Field Artillery, six troops of Cavalry, a Hospital Corps company, the School
for Cooks and Bakers, and was expecting a Signal Corps company. He said that two of the
field artillery batteries had decent quarters. Many of the coast artillery companies were
doubled up in the brick barracks that had been designed for one company each. Another
coast artillery company was living full time in the "shed" barracks that had been built at Fort
Scott for temporary use. Still others found homes in crude quarters in West Cantonment as
1. Maj. William W. Harts, April 18, 1907, to Adjutant General, Pacific Division, OQMG, General
Correspondence 1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
2. Actg. Sec. of War Robert S. Oliver, June 18, 1907; M.H. DeYoung, San Francisco Chronicle, February 8, 1909,
to Maj. Gen. J.F. Weston, Dept. of California, both in OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
did the School for Cooks and Bakers, the hospital company, and still some of the Department
of California offices.
The 14th Cavalry troops occupied twelve small barracks in East Cantonment (nos. 563, 567,
569, and 572 surviving from this period). The Inspector General thought the barracks could
be made comfortable, but the kitchen buildings were wholly inadequate, as were the
temporary stables (sheds) that exposed the horses to rain and wind. Funston concluded his
letter, "It is therefore recommended that plans for the rebuilding of the Presidio of San
Francisco to accommodate the troops stationed there now with the addition of a regiment of
Infantry be considered." 3
In 1909 the department quartermaster carried out a thorough inspection of all post
quartermaster operations. He noted that the Presidio had a crematory for the burning of
garbage and the sewer system that emptied into the bay operated satisfactorily. While mineral
oil remained the main source of lighting, he recommended that electricity be employed for
exterior illumination and for lighting the interiors of the modern buildings. The rock quarry
and a roller allowed the Presidio's roads to be adequately maintained, at least in good
weather. He inspected the two hundred or so buildings in East and West Cantonments and
reported them unsuited for the weather conditions. Only twelve new kitchen buildings were
"satisfactory in appointment and superior in construction." He found many latrines and
bathhouses unfit for use.
The brick barracks at the main post remained in fair condition. Water stood on the basement
latrine floors; the plaster walls and ceilings required retinting; and, worse than anything, the
barrack rooms were severely overcrowded, resulting in inadequate ventilation, lighting, and
fire escapes. The wood frame barracks, though old, had fairly good maintenance. They needed
some repainting, reflooring, and new latrine facilities. Other structures at the main post, both
brick and wood, generally required minor repairs, but some of the older storehouses and
stables had about reached the end of their usefulness. As for the main entrance road from
Lombard Street, past the general hospital, and on to the storehouses and stables, the time had
come to pave it with concrete and bitumen "in the manner prevailing in San Francisco." 4
3. Bng. Gen. Frederick Funston, January 14, 1908, to the Adjutant General, OQMG, General Correspondence
1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
4. Robert R. Stevens, Dept. of California, June 28, 1909, memo for the Adjutant General, Dept. of California,
OQMG, General Correspondence 1890-1914, RG 92, NA.
31. Officers' Quarters, Infantry Terrace, 1925. These handsome quarters constructed for the 30th Infantry
Regiment, stood near the southwest corner of the main parade ground. Built in 1910, these were the first
quarters at the Presidio to be built along contour lines as recommended by Major Harts rather than the
Army's traditional straight rows. U.S. Army, Presidio Army Museum
New brick construction at the main post at this time included a 120-man, U-plan barracks
(100) at the south end of the brick barracks row. The central section of the two-story, 1909
building measured 51 feet by 91 feet, and each wing, 39 feet by 92 feet. Generally similar to
the older brick barracks, it was built in the Colonial Revival style. Unlike the other barracks,
dormers did not adorn the roof. A porch along the central section had two stories. At the
other end of the row a small, two-story, brick barracks (106), also constructed in 1909, housed
a regimental band. Built in the Colonial Revival style, the building had raking wood cornice
moldings on the gable ends; these gable ends had inscribed circles reminiscent of the bulls-eye
windows in buildings of Georgian and Georgian Revival styles. The window heads had
segmental relieving arches; and the wooden porch had the upper story enclosed, probably
Behind barracks row the Army had three duplex, brick noncommissioned officers' quarters
(124, 125, and 126) constructed in 1909. These became the first such permanent quarters at the
Presidio for this important group of soldiers and their families. Called "EM family housing"
today, these 2^-story quarters with one-story wood porches on the fronts, each having Tuscon
columns and railings, continue to house noncommissioned officers. Built in the style of
Colonial Revival or Georgian Revival, the buildings had windows with segmental heads.
Lunettes with fan-sash sat below the ridges in the gable ends. Each structure had a gable roof
and molded wood cornices with returns on the gable ends.
One other brick building erected in 1909, a second bakery (228), stood adjacent to the 1897
bakery east of Halleck Street. It measured 65 feet by 66 feet and like the earlier bakery the
one-story building had a hipped roof with a central monitor, also hipped. Openings in the
building had reveals and relieving arches. Its architectural style was Utilitarian or Industrial
vernacular. A quartermaster inspector noted that this bakery had developed cracks in its brick
walls, probably due to having been built partly on fill. 5
Other construction activities at the Presidio during these years included an octagonal
bandstand at the southwest corner of the parade near the officers' club (the Army moved it
to Infantry Terrace in 1927, then demolished it in 1935). Construction of an electrical
substation (680) near the cavalry barracks in 1908 marked the recent introduction of electricity
to the Presidio. In 1911 an Utilitarian styled, brick electrical switching station (107), located
west of the brick barracks 105 at the main post, also heralded the electrification of the post.
Earlier, in 1908, the post quartermaster noted with alarm the rapid erosion of the shoreline
in lower Presidio. He said that the telephone poles had had to be moved inland forty feet,
twice. He too recommended fill and a seawall. In the same letter he noted that the stone wall
on the reservation's east boundary remained incomplete. 6
C. Infantry Terrace
Major Harts' plan for quarters being sited on contour lines rather than in the
traditional long straight rows came into being in 1910-1911 with the construction of officers'
quarters on Infantry Terrace southwest of the main post's parade ground. The name grew out
of the fact that the Thirtieth Infantry Regiment returned to the post at this time in a
6. J.L. Clem, Dept. of California, August 8, 1908, to QMG; Capt. ?, PSF, December 1, 1908, to the Adjutant,
PSF, both in OQMG, General Correspondence, 1890-1914, RG 92, NA; Col. F.C. Holies, 30th Infantry, August 11,
1927, to Commander, Ninth Corps Area, OQMG, General Correspondence Geographical File, hereinafter cited as
GCGF, 1922-1935, RG 92, NA.
permanent change of station. Numbered 325 through 345, the buildings varied in plan. All
but two had concrete walls and company grade officers occupied them. Field grade officers
lived in the two brick quarters, 341 and 342. Ten of the concrete quarters were duplexes while
the other nine housed single families.
Two-story, rectangular in plan, the buildings had hip-and-gable tiled roofs. All had one-story
front porches that were divided in half with two flights of steps for the duplexes. Stucco
covered the concrete walls. While the buildings lacked sufficient ornament and detail to
establish a definite style, they were described as being California Craftsman /Spanish
Mediterranean eclectic. 7
Also in 1910 two more structures became part of the industrial area on the east side of
Halleck Street: Warehouse 222, two-story, reinforced concrete, measuring 31 feet by 79 feet,
having a hip-and-gable roof with dormers, and a simplified Colonial Revival /Utilitarian style;
and storehouse 225, 2'/2 stories, brick, some windows barred or boarded over, measuring 24
feet by 30 feet, and similar in style to 222. (The construction quartermaster employed
reinforced concrete more and more following the 1906 earthquake inasmuch as that material
survived the quake better than brick.)
In the five years between 1910 and 1915 two major developments took place at the Presidio
of San Francisco: construction of the coast artillery post, Fort Winfield Scott; and the building
of a large part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in lower Presidio. While these
major events took place, the post underwent the usual activities such as inspections, minor
improvements, and occasional disasters. The officers' club, by now a firmly established post
institution, held an elegant reception in 1912 for a new commander of the 30th Infantry, Col.
Charles McClure. Only two civilians attended the event, San Francisco's mayor, James Rolph,
Jr., and Mrs. Rolph:
The scene was a brillant one. The light blue [uniform trimmings] of the
infantry hosts, the canary of the cavalry, the red of the artillery, the maroon of
the medical corps, the orange of the signal corps, mingled with the various
7. Historical Reports Relating to Post Planning, 1899-1945, Box 11, Infantry Terrace, Sixth Corps Area
Quartermaster, U.S. Army Commands, 1920-42, RG 394, NA.
8. Ibid., Box 11, Main Post.
shades of the ladies' gowns presented such a dazzling effect as had not been
seen in San Francisco since the famous fleet ball at the Fairmont in 1908. 9
In its sixty-fifth year as a U.S. Army post the Presidio of San Francisco possessed a certain
D. Fires and Firemen
Over the years the Presidio suffered from a number of building fires, especially in the
substandard wooden structures at East and West Cantonments. Most often faulty chimneys
and sparks from coal fires caused the blazes. The first recorded fatalities occurred in 1913
when fire destroyed the quarters of Sgt. George H. Schall in West Cantonment. Five people
lost their lives: Mrs. Schall who was a paralytic, their three children, and Mrs. Schall's mother.
The garrison - two regiments of infantry, two troops of cavalry, Hospital Corps soldiers, men
from the Signal Corps, and the women and children of the post, voluntarily attended the
funeral in the national cemetery. The 1st Cavalry band played the funerary music. Despite
the outpouring of sympathy, the Presidio did little or nothing to improve its fire fighting
A year later the wife of a sergeant in the 16th Infantry band lost her life in another quarters
fire. But it was a house fire in August 1915 that brought attention to the obvious - that the
Presidio's fire fighting system of untrained soldiers was wholly inadequate and that the post
had no trained firemen.
Brig. Gen. John J. (Black Jack) Pershing, veteran of the Philippine battles, arrived at the
Presidio in January 1914 to take command of the Eighth Infantry Brigade (6th, 12th, and 16th
Infantry regiments). He settled his family in a renovated set of two-story, wood frame
quarters on the west side of the parade that had previously been the quarters of the post
commander. Troubles in Mexico and incidents on the Mexican border had caused American
troops, including the Presidio's, to establish posts along the international boundary. General
9. The San Francisco Call, January 17, 1912. The 30th Infantry had first been organized at the Presidio in
March 1901 and had promptly departed for duty in the Philippines. It returned to the Presidio in 1909 and
occupied the brick barracks, forcing the artillery troops to find shelter elsewhere. In June 1912 the regiment
transferred to Alaska where it remained until July 1914. It then returned to the Presidio to replace the infantry
brigade that had departed for the Mexican border. In World War I it served in France as part of the Third Infantry
Division. Once again, in 1922, it came back to the Presidio where it remained for many years. The regiment came
to be called "San Francisco's Own" and carried a special green regimental standard bearing that appellation. Its
motto: "Our Country, Not Ourselves." Workers of the Writers' Program, Work Projects Administration, "The Army
at the Golden Gate" (Presidio of San Francisco, n.d.), p. 110; Mahon and Danysh, Infantry, pp. 531-532.
10. San Francisco Chronicle, April 27 and 29, 1913.
32. Fire destroyed Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing's Presidio quarters in 1915, killing Mrs. Pershing and three of
their children. One result of this fire was the Presidio's acquisition of a professional fire department, the
first in the Army. U.S. Army, Presidio Army Museum
Pershing, stationed at Fort Bliss, near El Paso, Texas, in August 1915, and anticipating the
arrival of his wife and four children in a few days, suddenly learned terrible news. On
August 27 live coals dropped from an open grate to the wood floor in the Presidio quarters.
Mrs. Pershing and her three daughters sleeping upstairs died by suffocation. The five-year-old
son survived. Others who escaped included Mrs. James R. Church and Mrs. Walter O.
Boswell, visiting army wives; William Johnson, Pershing's valet; and two women servants.
An army board of investigation noted that fifteen minutes had elapsed before the Army
alerted the San Francisco Fire Department of the blaze. The San Francisco fire chief
recommended that the Presidio organize a fire company from its soldiers, have the city fire
33. The Presidio's fire station at the main post. E. Thompson, 1991
department drill them, and assign them permanently to the Presidio as a fire department. The
Army accepted the recommendations and constructed the Presidio fire station (218) on
Lincoln Boulevard in 1917. The hip-and-gable roof with gable-roofed dormers and the hose
tower suggest a stripped Craftsman style, but the lack of detail best characterizes the building
as Utilitarian. 11 The Army then hired professional civilian firemen to man it, the beginning
of professional fire departments on army posts nationwide.
11. Capt. E.T. Hartman, OQMG, May 11, 1914, to Western Department, OQMG, General Correspondence
1890-1914, RG 92, NA; San Francisco Examiner, August 28, 29, 30, and 31, 1915; San Francisco Chronicle, August 28,
29, and 30, 1915. Mrs. Pershing's father, Francis Warren, U.S. Senator from Wyoming, rushed to California. The
surviving son, Francis Warren Pershing, a veteran of World War II, died in 1980. New York Times, June 10, 1980.
One other Presidio fire of note occurred in the officers' club in 1915 when a roof caught on
fire. Although, Kinnaird, "History of the Golden Gate," p. 370, wrote that much of the
building was obliterated, it is believed that damage was modest and the building continued
to function as a club. According to a 1913 newspaper article, the War Department had
ordered the adobe building razed "some time ago." Due to the efforts of the "California
Historic Landmarks League," who planned to place a bronze tablet on the building, the Army
rescinded the order. Fire or no fire, completion reports showed that the building received an
electric light system in 1912, gas steam radiators in 1926, and six chandeliers in 1927. 12
Since the 1915 Pershing tragedy, the Presidio had been well served by its trained civilian fire
department. A crisis arose in 1920 when the War Department directed that the number of
firemen be reduced from twenty to seven. San Francisco newspapers joined the chorus of
protesters, recalling the Pershing fire and similar events. The outcome of this incident remains
unknown; the records indicate that five or six firemen, accompanied by a Seagrave pumper,
and sometimes by a Dodge chemical apparatus, fought post fires in the years that
The fire department was kept busy in the 1920s. Most of the older buildings had wood
shingles and sparks from coal stoves constantly lodged in them. In 1925 one of the officers'
quarters built in 1886 on the east side of Funston Avenue caught fire. The quartermaster
asked for $1,600 to repair the building because it was particularly desirable as an officer's
quarters. A year later a requisition appeared for reshingling the roofs of all the older quarters
at the main post; it said the existing shingles posed a fire menace.
In 1927 a latrine across the street from the fire house caught fire. A board of investigation
decided that a cigarette caused the blaze. That same year fire completely destroyed a
sergeant's quarters in the West Cantonment. He lost everything but his family escaped safely.
Back at the main post a six-year-old boy set an officer's house on fire by touching battery
wires together, causing only minor damage. 14
12. Typescript from San Francisco Examiner, November 16, 1913, in Richard N. Schellens Papers, California
Historical Society; Completion Reports, Presidio of San Francisco, Book 6, Box 260C, RG 77, NA - Suitland Branch.
13. San Francisco Chronicle, July 23, 1920; Boards of Officers investigating fires, PSF, 1927, OQMG, GCGF 1922-
1935, RG 92, N A.
14. Lt. Col. H.R. Casey, June 4, 1925, to the Adjutant General; Annual Estimate Priorities for Fiscal Year 1926;
Boards of Officers, PSF, June 30 and December 16, 1927; and Col. L.L. Deitrick, September 10, 1926, to QMG, all
in OQMG, GCGF 1922-1935, RG 92, NA. The material for the reshingling was not stated.
E. Barracks 35 and Cavalry Stables
Concrete replaced brick as the favorite construction material in 1912 when the
quartermaster supervised the building of a large, three-story barracks with mess facilities (35)
at the northeast end of the original parade and immediately west of the post hospital. A one-
story concrete porch extended along its west side, the roof of which served as a porch for the
second-floor occupants. The third floor had four large iron balconies, also on the west side.
As first built the structure measured approximately 92 feet by 303 feet. Architecturally the
building had a Mixed or Eclectic style with references to Classical Revival and Mediterranean
Revival. Not all its early occupants have been identified, but at one time the Presidio's famed
School for Cooks and Bakers lived in the building. Then, in 1920, the newly formed
headquarters of the Ninth Corps Area arrived at the Presidio and occupied the barracks as
The Presidio resumed work on the cavalry complex in 1913-1914 when it constructed five
brick stables (661, 662, 663, 667, and 668), each for 102 horses, in the hollow north of the lone
cavalry barracks. A veterinary hospital occupied stable 668. Later, a row of dog kennels
occupied the space between stables 667 and 668. In 1976 the post veterinarian and the food
inspection facilities moved into stable 663. Others became warehouses and an auto shop in
later years. Each of the long rectangular-plan brick stables had a central gable-roofed section
fenestrated to provide light for the interior and flanking sections with shed or mono-pitched
roofs. Openings had reveals and segmental-arched heads. They were Utilitarian or Industrial
vernacular in style.
F. Fort Winfield Scott
In 1901 the U.S. Army divided its artillery into field artillery and coast artillery. At the
same time the Quartermaster Department prepared plans for the increase in coast artillery
quarters for the San Francisco Bay Area - Fort Winfield Scott, Fort Baker, Fort Barry, and Fort
Miley. The arrival of the 30th Infantry Regiment at the Presidio in 1909 caused the War
Department to speed up construction of Fort Scott. 16
1?. Completion Reports, 1917-1919 and 1934, PSF, Construction Division, OQMG, RG 92, NA. During World
War II this building served as headquarters for the Fourth U.S. Army and the Western Defense Command.
16. William Addleman Ganoe, The Hiaton/ of the United State* Army, rev. ed. (New York: D. Appleton-Century,
1942), p. 428; "Proposed Distribution of the Coast Artillery . . .;" and Lt. Col. C.J. Bailey, War Department, April 10,
1909, to QMG, both the latter in OQMG, General Correspondence 1890-1914, RG 92, NA. In January 1907 eight
companies of the Coast Artillery lived at the Presidio.
34. Barracks 34. This large concrete barracks, located on the original parade and built in 1912, became the
headquarters of the Ninth Corps Area in 1920. E. Thompson, 1991
35. Two of the five brick cavalry stables built in 1913-1914 near the cavalry barracks. Later used by the
Quartermaster Department, they eventually became warehouses and a veterinary hospital. E. Thompson,
36. Officers' quarters, Kobbe Avenue, Fort Winfield Scott, built between 1910 and 1912. Like those on
Infantry Terrace they followed standard army plans and stood along contour lines rather than straight
rows. WPA funds probably paid for the extensive masonry walls. E. Thompson, 1991
37. The commanding officer's quarters, Fort Winfield Scott, built in 1915. In 1990 it served as a residence for
the deputy commander, Sixth U.S. Army. E. Thompson, 1991
Officers' quarters 1302 and 1304, both built on Kobbe Avenue in 1902 had marked the
beginning of such quarters at Fort Scott. Between 1910 and 1912 ten additional buildings
following standard army plans came into being along the curving avenue as called for by
Major Harts in his 1907 plan: 1300, 1308, and 1310 built in 1910; 1314, 1320, 1322, 1324, 1326,
1328, and 1334 built in 1912. In 1915 two additional sets of quarters, 1330 and 1337, completed
1300 - single residence, 2/2 stories quadraplex
1308 - quadraplex, brick, 2/2 stories
1310 - duplex, concrete, 2/2 stories
1314 - single residence, brick, 3 stories
1320 - duplex, concrete, 2/2 stories
1322 - single residence, brick, 3 stories
1324 - duplex, concrete, 2/2 stories
1326 - duplex, concrete, 2/2 stories
1328 - duplex, concrete, 2Vi stories
1330 - bachelor officers' quarters, brick, 3 stories with a two-story porch along
the front. Named Barnard Hall
1334 - quadraplex, brick, 2/2 stories
1337 - single residence, brick, 2/2 stories, commanding officer's quarters. This building
stood separately from the others, on the north side of Kobbe Avenue and
Quarters 1300, 1308, and 1310 had the Mediterranean Revival style with cream-colored
stuccoed walls, tiled hip roofs with shaped brackets under the eaves, and entrance porticos
having wrought-iron railings. The other quarters' architectural style was Colonial Revival in
the Georgian /Federal mode, with brick walls, dormers, a variety of porches, and some tiled
roofs. Elaborate brickwork distinguished quarters 1314 and 1322. These two sets along with
quarters 1334 had balustrades composed of white-painted stick railings in geometric patterns.
Polygonal bays decorated the facades of quarters 1330 and 1334. The commanding officer's
quarters, 1337, was a fine example of the Colonial Revival style.
The horseshoe-shaped parade ground, laid out in 1910, covered much of the plateau on which
the light artillery had once used as a drill field. Not only did its shape reflect Major Harts'
1907 recommendations, the buildings that soon surrounded it exhibited Mission Revival
architecture as had been advanced as a concept at that time. The administration building
(1201) for the fort's headquarters stood at the head of the parade. Completed in 1910 the two-
story concrete building measured 43 feet by 87 feet. On the west side of the horseshoe the
Headquarters building, Fort Winfield Scott. It represented the beginning of Mission Revival architecture
at the military reservation, the Army's departure from its standard plans. E. Thompson, 1991
39. The Mission Revival style enlisted barracks at Fort Winfield Scott. E. Thompson
40. Fort Winfield Scott's Stockade (Guardhouse), described as both Italian Spanish Mediterranean Revival
and Italian Rennaissance Revival. E. Thompson, 1991
Army constructed seven concrete, 2/2 story, I-shaped barracks, each of which held ninety-five
soldiers. Constructed between 1910 and 1912, they numbered 1202 through 1208.
The east side of the parade contained three similar barracks (1216-1218), as well as the band
barracks (1214) and the stockade or guardhouse (1213), all constructed in 1912. Behind the
barracks and to the east stood a second row of buildings: quartermaster storehouse and
bowling alley (1219), and infirmary (1224), both built in 1912, and the gymnasium and
assembly hall (1226) erected in 1911. Like the rest of Scott's early buildings, these had concrete
walls later covered with stucco.
The administration building, or post headquarters (1201), Mission Revival in style, was
enriched with a trefoil window in the scrolled, central gable and a wrought-iron balcony
railing above the entrance. The ten barracks (1202-1208 and 1216-1218), also Mission Revival
in style, had tiled gable roofs, hip-and-gable dormers, and cross gabled end sections. Each
gable end had a group of three windows of which the center one had a round-arched head.
The barracks' ground floors that faced the parade ground were arcaded. The band barracks
(1214), gymnasium (1226), and quartermaster office (1220) also possessed the Mission Revival
style. Other buildings in the 1200 series, such as the bowling alley (1219) and the blacksmith
shop (1231) were simplified, utilitarian versions of the Mission Revival style.
The post stockade (1213) was a square block structure with a tiled, hip roof having large
double brackets supporting the eaves. This style was called both Italian /Spanish
Mediterranean Revival and Italian Renaissance Revival. It was an eclectic style that blended
well with the Mission Revival buildings. The infirmary (1224) was similarly styled.
On June 18, 1912, The San Francisco Call ran an article, "Two Army Posts Now in Presidio."
It said that Fort Winfield Scott had been removed administratively from the Presidio proper
as a separate and distinct post, "The new quarters are among the most elaborate and modern
in the United States, and when the landscape features are completed, Fort Winfield Scott will
be the finest, as it is already the most beautifully located, army post in the country." The
Presidio post returns recorded, "On June 19, 1912, the separation of Fort Winfield Scott from
the Presidio of San Francisco, Calif., as an independent post, was effected, all Coast Artillery
Corps at the Presidio . . . taking station at Fort Winfield Scott, per G.O. 11, Western Division,
June 18, 1912." 17
As Fort Scott settled down to manning the coastal batteries, additional structures became
essential components of the post: blacksmith shop (1231), built in 1913, one-story concrete;
quartermaster and paint shop (1227), built in 1917, one-story, wood frame; quartermaster
office (1220), built in 1918, two-story concrete; warehouse (1230), built in 1918, one-story,
wood frame; flammable storage shed (1245), built in 1918, one-story; gas pumphouse (1361),
built in 1919, one-story; and officers' recreation center (1331), built in 1921, one-story.
Although this last has been extensively altered, a recent report described it as a "good
example of the indoor /outdoor movement in California architecture." 18 Built of brick in a
Spanish Mediterranean Revival style, it had a tiled roof.
17. Presidio of San Francisco, Post Returns, June 1912, Roll 972, M617, NA.
18. Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, Department of the Interior, Inventory of Buildings, Presidio
of San Francisco, 1981.
Between 1909 and 1921, eleven sets of quarters for noncommissioned officers, curving along
Ruckman and Storey avenues east of the parade ground, contributed to the scene at Fort
Scott. Varying between single and duplex residences, all were two-story, wood frame
1909 1912 1918 1921
1261 1272 1240 1263
1262 1273 1266
1265 1274 1270
During World War II three of them (1263, 1266, and 1270) became bachelor enlisted quarters
(BEQ) for senior noncommissioned officers. All these quarters fitted in well with the earlier
buildings in terms of color and material although they were basically Colonial Revival rather
than Mission Revival.
G. Panama-Pacific International Exposition
Even before the 1906 earthquake, leading merchants in San Francisco had discussed
the possibility of holding a world's fair. In the aftermath of the disaster, a reconstructed city
looked upon the concept with enthusiasm and in 1909 a committee settled on 1915 as the date
for the exposition, the year the Panama Canal was expected to be completed. Planners
selected the area known as Harbor View (today, Marina) and approached the Army seeking
permission to include southern Fort Mason and the lower Presidio. At first the War
Department refused to surrender its land for the five years the fair was expected to run.
Finally relenting, the Army leased eighteen acres of Fort Mason and 287 acres of the Presidio
to the Exposition Company.
For several years army officers had recommended filling the lagoons and ponds in the lower
Presidio and now the exposition company undertook the task and filled 114 acres by dredging
from the bay. It also installed a system of sanitary and storm sewers. President William H.
Taft presided at the ground breaking on October 14, 1911 at Golden Gate Park and
reviewed Presidio's troops. As it had agreed, the company moved the four supply depot
storehouses from their site near the Presidio wharf to a location west of the general hospital,
"and several other Government structures were removed and some were wrecked." It
expended some $19,000 in moving the Fort Point Life Saving Station farther to the west and
constructing a new steel launchway for its boats. Six large greenhouses and related structures
were installed in the Presidio's Tennessee Hollow for the purpose of preparing plants for the
exposition grounds. The Army also allowed for the transplanting of some of its tall trees to
the site and for a quarry of serpentine rock to be opened.
During the fair, which lasted less than one year, in 1915, because of the war in Europe,
Presidio's troops took part in all parades and ceremonies on the fair grounds. The Coast
Artillery occasionally fired the big guns at targets and exploded submarine mines in
demonstrations. In February 1915 a provisional squadron of four troops, 1st Cavalry, arrived
at the Presidio and lent its impressive appearance throughout the year. The company allowed
enlisted men in uniform to enter the grounds free, and built an Enlisted Men's Club House
for their relaxation. At the end of the fair the Army moved this building to higher ground
where it continued to function as a service club. Its eventual fate is yet unknown.
At the east boundary of the reservation the State of Oregon erected its imposing Oregon
Building. At the conclusion of the exposition the state offered the structure and its tallest-
flagstaff-in-the-world to the federal government. The secretary of war declined the offer
because it was not suitable for military use. The Army did retain the nearby Palace of Fine
Arts but in 1924 announced that it would tear it down. An uproar of protest resulted. The
Army delayed the demolition and entered negotiations with the city. Finally an agreement
was reached and in 1927 the U.S. Army gave the Palace of Fine Arts to the City and County
of San Francisco and its successors for "educational, art, exposition and park purposes." 1
H. World War I and the 1920s
The Presidio's enlisted strength in January 1916 stood at 1,747 men. In February
eighty-six men manned the post. The infantry had marched to the Mexican border, and the
post's strength remained below one hundred for the rest of the year. All that changed in the
spring of 1917 when the United States declared war on Germany. Almost immediately a large
camp of temporary buildings sprang up on the lower Presidio where the exposition buildings
had stood only a few months before. North Cantonment became the name of these 216
19. Frank Morton Todd, The Story of the Exposition . . . Held at San Francisco in 1915, 5 vols. (New York:
Knickerbocker Press, 1921), 1:34-254; J.F. Bell, November 16, 1915, to General Tasker H. Bliss, OQMG, GCGF,
RG 92, NA. Today the Presidio's Directorate of Engineering and Housing's offices (283) occupy the site of the
Oregon Building. Some people believe it to be the Oregon Building, but there is no similarity. The original Palace
of Fine Arts consisted of plaster on chicken-wire and wood frame, a massive temporary building sufficient in
strength to last for the duration of the fair. In World War II the Army occupied the structure for storage of
supplies. Long after the war the structure became dilapidated and unpreservable. Then a philanthropist donated
money to tear it down and reconstruct it as a permanent concrete and steel structure, which is the present Palace
of Fine Arts.
structures that housed 6,000 men who formed a provisional brigade. An officer training
school at the post accepted college graduates from the western states as well as enlisted men.
The 12th Infantry Regiment returned from the Mexican border and resumed training along
with the National Guard's 362d and 363d regiments. Fort Scott's 61st and 67th Coast Artillery
companies departed for France, and the 12th Infantry prepared to join the force that the
United States dispatched to Siberia in 1918 because of the Russian Revolution. During the war
the Army established Camp Fremont at Menlo Park twenty-five miles south of the Presidio.
This tent camp had a capacity of 30,000 persons. There the Eighth Infantry Division organized
and trained. Its commander and 5,000 of its men (but not the 12th Infantry) formed a major
part of the Siberian force that departed from San Francisco. 20
Besides North Cantonment, the Presidio witnessed other significant construction during the
war and in the early postwar years. In 1917 the construction quartermaster supervised the
building of twelve sets of officers' quarters on East Terrace that formed a gentle arc facing
Presidio Boulevard. Similar to the earlier quarters at Infantry Terrace, each had two stories,
rectangular plan, stuccoed concrete walls, and hip-and-gable tiled roof. The eight duplexes'
front porches were divided in half and had two flights of steps, while a single flight of steps
led to the porch of each of the four single residences. Eclectic Craftsman /Mediterranean in
style, the residences are numbered 540 through 551.
Because of the war and the overseas deployment of troops, Fort Mason's supply depot
expanded even more into the lower Presidio. Between 1917 and 1919 it constructed thirteen
warehouses in the vicinity of the Palace of Fine Arts. Utilitarian in style, these long,
rectangular, wood frame structures had low-pitched gable roofs, horizontal siding, and
loading docks. Also in 1917 the State Belt Railroad of California, San Francisco's waterfront
20. Langellier, "Bastion by the Bay," pp. 270-271; Kinnaird, "History of the Golden Gate," pp. 340-343; Stewart
and Erwin, [History of the Presidio], p. 85; William S. Graves, America's Siberian Adventure, 1918-1920 (New York:
Cape and Smith, 1931), p. 34; John T. Knight, September 12, 1923, to the Adjutant General, War Department,
OQMG, GCGF 1922-1935, RG 92, NA.
Following the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917, two Allied expeditions went into Russia in 1918.
Part of the U.S. 85th Division, under British command, entered the port of Murmansk in northwestern Russia to
protect Allied military supplies. A second Allied expedition, including 10,000 American troops, landed at the
Siberian port of Vladivostok. The Americans, under the command of Brig. Gen. William S. Graves, secured the
eastern section of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, gave aid to a Czechoslovak army stranded in Siberia, and through
its presence discouraged any Japanese ambitions to annex Russian territory in the confusion following the
revolution. General Graves resisted pressure to take action against the Bolshevist faction. He withdrew the
American contingent in 1920. Webster's American Military Biographies, (Springfield, MA, 1978) pp. 150-151; and
Graves, America's Siberian Adventure.
41. Presidio of San Francisco, 1925. The rows of dark-colored buildings along the bay shore were barracks
built for the mobilization of troops during World War I. The cleared space at the bottom of the photo
would soon become the site of the facilities engineers' building. U.S. Army, Presidio Army Museum
railroad, was extended from Fort Mason to these warehouses. 21 Another 1917 warehouse
(230), west of the general hospital, also had a low-pitched gable roof, horizontal siding, and
a loading dock. From 1906 on an electric streetcar line terminated on Presidio Boulevard north
of East Terrace. At the turn-around, a concrete-walled building (558) served as a restaurant
and post exchange until 1945. In later years military police occupied the building and today
it is used by nearby Letterman Army Medical Center. 22
21. Mark L. Brack, James P. Delgado, c' al, Presidio of San Francisco National Historic Landmark District, Historic
American Building* Survey/ Report (San Franc -co: National Park Service, 1985), pp. 18-19. Warehouses 1183 through
1188 were built in 1917; numbers 1161, 1162, 1163, 1167, 1169, and 1170, in 1919. Warehouses 1186 and 1187 housed
22. John Langellier, notes, Land Records of the Presidio of San Francisco, 1850-1951, RG 338, NA, San
Advances in communications resulted in the construction of a main telephone exchange (67)
in 1919. The concrete, two-story building had a tiled, hipped roof. Located in Tennessee
Hollow east of the main post officers' quarters, the building acquired a one-story addition in
1940. The Presidio acquired two radio stations in 1921. Located on Presidio Hill, the wood
frame military affiliated radio support (MARS) station (314) measured 26 feet by 41 feet and
had three stories. Its construction resulted in the Presidio being in a communications network
that extended from Washington, D.C., to Hawaii. Immediately next to it stood a radio
receiving station (312). This one-story brick building measured 25 feet by 26 feet.
In addition to its regular garrison, Fort Scott acquired a balloon company in 1921. These
balloon crews assisted the coast artillerymen during training by reporting the results of their
fire on targets being towed at sea, targets otherwise hidden by haze or fog. The balloon
hangar, hydrogen generator house, and a field for maneuvering the winch were constructed
in the southern part of the fort near the Marine Hospital and across Lobos Creek from 21st
Avenue. The balloon did not remain long but the hangar did, to the dismay of the residents
of the Richmond area who could see it from their windows. 23
Additional construction at both the Presidio and Fort Scott declined considerably in the 1920s.
The Presidio's strength varied from 1,000 to 2,000 during those years. At Fort Scott many of
the coastal batteries had become obsolete and no longer mounted guns, and the number of
companies assigned to the post declined. But the fort continued to be the headquarters for
the harbor defenses of San Francisco, and from 1924 to the end of World War II the Sixth
Coast Artillery Regiment's headquarters operated from Fort Scott.
Many of the wood frame structures in East and West Cantonments began falling apart in the
1920s. Enlisted labor had hastily assembled the buildings in the Spanish-American War
emergency and again in the 1903 construction of the recruits' Infantry Cantonment. Now, the
Army began a systematic program of surveying the worst of these buildings for salvaging or
sale. For instance, a group of 1898 company kitchens and bathhouses, that had been converted
to noncommissioned officers' quarters in 1915, now reached the end of their existence. By the
early 1930s much of West Cantonment, particularly, had disappeared. The commanding
officer of the 30th Infantry wrote to Ninth Corps Area requesting permission to destroy
23. Completion Reports, Quarters for Balloon Company and Hangar, 1920 and 1921, OQMG, GCGF, RG 92,
"Igorrote Village" as fast as possible. Enlisted men had built these quarters out of salvaged
material and they were now unsanitary, rotten, and unfit for animals. 24
As late as 1923 the title to Rancho de Ojo de Agua de Figueroa on the Presidio's eastern
boundary still lay in dispute. Consequently, the Army had not constructed a boundary wall
in the area between Vallejo and Green streets. Citizens from the area now demanded that the
military build a wall because the reservation's soil was eroding onto Lyon Street. There then
developed a quarrel as to who should pay for the construction. Two years passed before a
compromise resulted in the Army and the property owners sharing in the costs. They
completed a concrete retaining wall in 1926.
Other neighbors, members of the Marina District Improvement Association, demanded in
1926 that the Army remove a certain unsightly corrugated iron warehouse immediately north
and west of their properties. The army replied that the building was neat, well-painted, and
less than two years old. Army engineers used the building as a warehouse and it was
absolutely essential to their mission. The War Department informed Congresswoman Florence
Prag Kahn that if the Improvement Association wished to plant a screen of trees or shrubs
inside the reservation, it was welcome to do so. While the proof is not definite, it is most
probable that the building in question was today's Directorate of Engineering and Housing
(283) that, as was earlier noted, stands on the site of the exposition's Oregon Building. The
date of its construction is 1925 or 1926. Utilitarian in style, having a low-pitched gable roof,
it retains the metal siding that so offended its neighbors many years ago. Also, a screen
separates it from the Marina. 26
A query from the War Department in 1930 led to a short history of railroads at the Presidio,
other than the Belt Line tracks. On April 7, 1881, the Presidio issued a revocable license to the
Presidio Railroad Company to operate a line, using steam "dummy" locomotives and wooden
passenger cars, reaching a depot northeast of the post hospital within the reservation. On
June 3, 1892, the Presidio & Ferries Railroad Company (probably a reorganization of the
24. Various correspondence dated 1926-1933; Col. F.R. Brown, 30th Infantry, September 13, 1928, to
commanding general, Ninth Corps Area, all in Box 1984, OQMG, GCGF 1922-1935, RG 92, NA. The location of
Igorrote Village has not been determined, but possibly in West Cantonment. Igorrate was a mountain tribe in
northern Luzon, Philippines.
Lewis E. Mass, secretary to Congressman Julius Kahn, March 1, 1923, to QMG and associated papers,
OQMG, GCGF 1922-1935, RG 92, NA. At that time a survey of the reservation boundary showed that fencing
consisted of 11,250 linear feet of stone, 8,850 feet of wire, and 2,700 feet of board.
26. Marina District Improvement Association, Petition to Congresswoman Florence Prag Kahn, n.d.: and Maj.
Gen. C.P. Summerall, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army,, January 21, 1927, to Mrs. Kahn, both in OQMG, GCGF 1922-1935,
RG 92, NA.
42. Troops parading on the south half of the original parade, 1925. Officers' row on the left; wood frame
barracks on the right. A road led from the Alameda, across the parade, to the post headquarters (the first
two barracks next to the flagstaff that had served as division headquarters in the 1880s). U.S. Army,
Presidio Army Museum
former company) acquired a license for operating within the reservation and built a cable car
line in from Greenwich Street to a depot north of the later East Terrace. Also, it dismantled
the steam railroad and its tracks. The 1906 earthquake destroyed the cable car tracks,
especially east of the Presidio, and the Presidio and Ferries Railroad rebuilt the line along the
same Greenwich Street alignment into the Presidio as an electric streetcar or trolley line. The
Presidio and Ferries Railroad sold its line to the newly organized San Francisco Municipal
Railroad in 1913, which continued to operate the streetcars until 1945, when the agency
replaced them with rubber-tired trolley buses. 27
27. Col. Fred R. Brown, 30th Infantry, January 31, 1930, to Ninth Corps Area, OQMG, GCGF 1922-1935,
RG 92, NA; Gordon Chappell, Regional Historian, Western Region, NPS.
Although it had been at the Presidio only nine years, the headquarters of the Ninth Corps
Area had already outgrown the office space in the large concrete barracks (35). In 1929 its
adjutant general wrote that the Engineer, Ordnance, Air Corps, and Chemical Warfare staff
officers were spread out in temporary wooden buildings, some at a great distance from
headquarters. He estimated that the cost of constructing a three-story extension, 41 feet by
85 feet and containing 9,500 square feet of space, at $50,400. He said that the general, his chief
of staff, and the adjutant general (himself) would occupy the second floor of this extension.
Contractors built the addition on the south end of the barracks completing the work in 1934.
They glassed in the first floor porch on the original building to provide more office space, and
removed the iron balconies from the third floor. Also, the commanding general had a small
addition, 12 feet by 20 feet, of hollow tile added to the east side as shelter for his car. Thus
ended the not-so-roaring '20's at the Presidio of San Francisco. 28
28. Col. Frank C. Burnett, August 5, 1929, to the Adjutant General, War Department, OQMG, GCGF 1922-
1935, RG 92, N A.
CHAPTER 6: THE THIRTIES AND THE WAR, 1930-1945
A. A Headquarters Post
Despite the grim days of the Great Depression, the Presidio of San Francisco
experienced significant construction during the 1930s, even before the establishment of the
Works Progress Administration and its billions of dollars in 1935. Much of the new
construction came about because of the Presidio's increasing responsibilities as a headquarters
post. Ninth Corps Area continued to administer military establishments in the western states.
On October 1, 1933, the U.S. Army activated the headquarters of the Fourth Army at the
Presidio with Maj. Gen. Johnson Hagood commander of both major commands. Only lightly
staffed in the beginning, Fourth Army was completely integrated with Ninth Corps Area in
June 1936 and remained a "paper" army until the fall of 1940. At that time it assumed
command of army forces and all coast artillery units along the West Coast from the Canadian
to the Mexican borders without regard to geographical boundaries.
Ninth Corps Area headquarters moved to Fort Douglas, Utah, in April 1942, where it became
the Ninth Service Command charged with servicing and supplying all Fourth Army
installations. On December 7, 1941, the Western Defense Command came into being at the
Presidio as planned in the event of war. It consolidated with Fourth Army, both under the
command of Lt. Gen. John L. De Witt. 1
Additional responsibilities of these headquarters included the construction, administration,
and supply of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps in the Ninth Corps Area
beginning on April 5, 1933. About that time, too, the Presidio hosted a West Point Preparatory
School, housed in the old cavalry barracks (682) west of the national cemetery. 2 The 30th
Infantry Regiment continued to be the Presidio's principal combat arm. An inspection in 1941
1. The Army Almanac, A Book of Facts Concerning the U Yrf States Army (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1959),
p. 640; Stewart and Erwin, [History of the Presidio], pp. 71-73; Anonymous, "Organization of the U.S. Army in
California and the West," typescript, n.d., copy in Presidio Army Museum Library. In 1944 Fourth Army
transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. While at San Francisco it supervised the training of tactical units, e.g., the
Seventh Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California. Western Defense Command became a theater of operations
shortly after Pearl Harbor when an attack on the U.S. mainland was anticipated. As such it commanded Fourth
Army, Ninth Corps Area, and the Second and Fourth Air Forces. Its geographical responsibilities included
California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, Utah, Montana, and Alaska.
While Fourth Army supplied the troops for the 1943 recapture of the A .utians from the Japanese, it did
not direct the Aleutian operations as stated by Stewart and Erwin, p. 73. Adm. C 'ster A. Nimitz, from his
headquarters at Pearl Harbor, commanded all World War II operations in the N;>rth, ntral, and South Pacific.
2. Presidio of San Francisco, "Post diary," entries for April 5, and July 24, 1933, copy in the Presidio Army
noted that the regiment had to provide the daily guard, provide military police, and carry out
post fatigue and kitchen police, leaving only fragmented time for training. Further, when it
departed periodically for field training, the fire department became undermanned. The
commanding officer, Lt. Col. George Munteanu, who then maintained his headquarters in
Crissy Field's old administrative building (651) promised to correct these matters. 3
In 1935 the Army's "Baedeker" guide book described the Presidio. It listed the units then
assigned to the post: Air Corps, Detachment of Ninth Corps Area, 8th Signal Service
Company, 30th Infantry, 3d Bakery Company, 9th Motor Transport Company, 49th Motor
Repair Station, School for Bakers and Cooks, Finance Department, Medical Department,
Ordnance Department, Quartermaster Department, and a Recruiting Station. Although the
post contained thirty-four sets of bachelor officers' quarters, 115 sets of quarters for married
officers, twenty-seven sets for warrant officers, and 120 sets for married noncommissioned
officers, still forty-five officers and noncommissioned officers lived off post because of a lack
of quarters. It also noted that the Presidio had a polo team and domestic help was plentiful. 4
Back in August 1851, the Presidio's monthly post returns began using the title "Post Return
of the Presidio of San Francisco," and made reference to General Orders 34, Headquarters of
the Army, June 25, 1851. For whatever reason, in 1938 the War Department again named the
post the Presidio of San Francisco - General Orders 3, War Department, May 24, 1938, "The
military reservation situated at the location indicated is named as follows: Presidio of San
Francisco, San Francisco, Calif."
Europe fought the opening battles of World War II in 1939. In the United States the Congress
increased appropriations for field training. At the Presidio, Fourth Army conducted its first
large-scale command post exercise for the training of 700 officers the largest number ever
for the West Coast. On November 1, 1941, Fourth Army organized the first class of the Fourth
Army Intelligence School in an old Crissy Field hangar (640), half classroom, half barracks.
Fifty-eight Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) and two Caucasians comprised the
student body. Reflecting on the growing tensions with Japan, Fourth Army intelligence
officers recognized the need for such a school to teach Japanese-speaking soldiers military
vocabularies and Japanese writing. The four-man teaching staff prepared textbooks on
mimeograph machines, scrounged orange crates for chairs and carefully spent the $2,000 the
War Department authorized for the venture. The fifty-five graduates from that first class
3. Lt. Col. H.W. James, Ninth Corps, Annual Inspection of the Presidio for FY 1941, OQMG, GCGF, 1941,
RG 92, NA.
4. Charles J. Sullivan, Army Posts and Towns, The Baedeker of the Army (Burlington, VT, 1935).
serving in the Pacific theater soon proved their worth in battle as interrogators, interpreters,
translators, radio announcers, propaganda writers, and cave flushers. In 1942 the school
moved to Minnesota, and when it closed in 1946 it counted 6,000 of its graduates serving in
the Armed Forces. 5
The demolition of the older structures at the Presidio, particularly in East and West
Cantonments, continued unabated through the 1930s. Major improvements began in 1931 with
the construction of three duplex noncommissioned officers' quarters (127, 128, and 129) on
the main post west of the brick barracks. At the same time a six-stall, brick auto garage (123),
constructed nearby, served these quarters. The following year saw the completion of a
handsome post chapel (130) on a knoll east of the national cemetery. Spanish Colonial Revival
in style, with a tiled roof, the building's concrete walls were finished to imitate adobe This
two-story, cruciform-shaped chapel, with a square bell tower having an ornamental star-
shaped window, had a main entrance surrounded by an elaborate Plateresque architrave. 6
In 1930 Congress authorized forty sets of noncommissioned officers' quarters for both the
Presidio and Fort Winfield Scott at a cost of $250,000. Between 1932 and 1939 twenty-nine
new duplex quarters, numbered in the 700 series, all two-story, brick buildings, occupied the
West Cantonment on Liggett Avenue and Portola Street. Fort Scott acquired the other eleven
(1289-1298) in 1933. In contrast to West Cantonment, these two-story, duplex quarters had
hollow-tile walls rather than brick. The construction quartermaster built them on Ruckman
and Storey avenues, on either side of the now obsolete Battery Howe-Wagner. 7
At the main post the south half of the original parade ground west of the wood-frame
officers' quarters and the newer, larger parade ground east of the brick barracks became one
through consolidation in 1934. 8 A different kind of activity occurred in 1935 when the Golden
5. Ganoe, History of the U.S. Army, p. 515; Stewart and Erwin, [History of the Presidio], p. 72; "The MISLS
[Military Intelligence Service Language School] Album, 1946."
6. Pamphlet "Chapels of the Presidio," contributed to by Linda Jackowski and Sgt. Jerry D. Mason. This
pamphlet and other documents credit WPA funds for the chapel's construction. The WPA, however, was not
established until 1935. With the completion of this structure, the old post chapel (45) became the Catholic place
of worship and was named Chapel of Our Lady.
7. Col. Fred R. Brown, 30th Infantry, April 22, 1930, to the Adjutant General, War Department, OQMG,
GCGF 1922-1935, RG 92, NA. In later years the number of NCO quarters in this and the adjacent 800 area tripled.
8. Maj. Gen. Malin Craig, Ninth Corps Area, June 1, 1934, to the Adjutant General, War Department, OQMG,
GCGF 1922-1935, RG 92, NA.
Gate Bridge Authority, in rearranging parts of the Presidio in preparation for constructing the
bridge approach, built three small magazines or "ammo warehouses" in the lower Presidio
(631-633). The windowless, hollow-tile, stuccoed structures possibly held small arms
ammunition for military police and guards, several of the coastal batteries' magazines in this
general area having been destroyed by bridge construction. Each magazine measured 20 feet
by 24 feet. By 1937 the post quartermaster, not the cavalry, claimed the five brick stables (661,
662, 663, 667, and 668). A 1936 completion report noted the construction of a brick, ten-ton,
forced-draft garbage incinerator (669) in the vicinity of these stables. It consumed garbage and
refuse from the Presidio, Crissy Field, Fort Scott, Fort Mason, and the army transports.
C. Works Progress Administration
As the 1930s matured, social activities received an impetus with the construction of
two facilities, one at each post. A rustic, wood frame and stone noncommissioned officers'
club (1299) opened its doors at Fort Scott in 1937. Built not with WPA funding, the building's
walls consisted of uncoursed stone and logs. Tree trunks served as columns in the interior.
The decidedly unmilitary appearing building housed an officers' club in the 1970s. A youth
center occupied it in 1981. In 1990 it stood abandoned. Over at the Presidio, at the southwest
corner of the newer main parade, WPA funds allowed for the construction of "the War
Department Theater" (99), a reinforced concrete structure measuring 72 feet wide and 166 feet
long. In May 1939 the construction quartermaster put in a requisition for seventy-two plants
for landscaping around the new building. This Mediterranean Revival styled theater cost
$171,000. The doors opened on July 30, 1939, and the feature film "I'm From Missouri" played
to four separate audiences that day."
WPA funding paid for other Presidio construction in 1938-1940 including road improvement,
utilities, and telephone communications. East Cantonment's appearance took a turn for the
better with the completion of fifteen duplex officers' quarters (510-514 and 530-539) for both
field and company grades. The old parade ground west of the Civil War officers' quarters
shrank with the completion of two immense 250-man barracks (38 and 39) built at a cost of
$275,000 each. Best described as Mixed or Eclectic in style, they possessed a combination of
Mediterranean Revival with overtones of castles or forts in the overscaled archway entrances.
Supposedly built to relieve the overcrowding in the barracks of the 30th Infantry and other
units, one of the barracks, possibly 38, found itself occupied by the offices of the newly
activated Fourth Army. Fort Scott also shared in the construction activity but at a much
9. [No signature], May 18, 1938, to General Seaman, San Francisco District Engineer, OCE, General
Correspondence, 1927-1939, RG 77, NA.
43. Noncommissioned officers' club built in 1937. Located at Fort Winfield Scott, it served all NCOs on the
military reservation in the late 1930s and 1940s. Later, an officers' club, then a youth center. E. Thompson,
44. Noncommissioned officers' quarters, built in the 1930s, replaced substandard buildings in the former
West Cantonment. E. Thompson, 1991
45. Cooks and Bakers School, built with WPA funds in 1939. Later, it became the Presidio's post
headquarters. E. Thompson, 1991
46. Barracks 38 on the original parade ground was constructed in 1940 with WPA funds. It and neighboring
barracks 39 quickly became Fourth Army headquarters as World War II approached. Later it served as
Sixth Army headquarters. E. Thompson, 1991
reduced scale. Perhaps the most significant project involved widening Lincoln Boulevard from
ten to twenty-two feet and the widening and paving of interior roads. 10
For twenty years the Presidio's School of Bakers and Cooks, the senior school of its kind west
of the Rocky Mountains, had moved around the Presidio to wherever adequate quarters could
be found. At one time it occupied buildings in East Cantonment; for a while it settled in the
new concrete barracks 35. Finally, in 1934, the school's assistant commandant wrote that the
school, the 3d Bakery Company, and the post bakery staff all needed a permanent building.
(At that time, the school occupied quarters at Fort Scott.) A year later planners selected a site
for the proposed structure on the west side of Halleck Street opposite the post bakery (228).
WPA funds became available and in 1939 the students and staff moved into the completed
building (220) that contained kitchens, classrooms, and barracks later it would serve as post
The same contract called for a commissary and storehouse building in the lower Presidio. Its
completion report described the structure as containing a storeroom, office, and 3,700 square
feet of storage space. It stood on H-section steel piles about forty feet long, and its walls of
clay tile completed the reinforced concrete building. Numbered 603 it contained a photo lab
in 1990. 12
By the end of 1940 WPA funding for construction at San Francisco had run its course. The
construction quartermaster totaled the figures which came to a little over $800,000 for the
Presidio and Fort Scott.
D. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
In addition to the Ninth Corps headquarters adding staff for the construction,
administration, and supply of the CCC camps in the western states, the San Francisco General
Depot at Fort Mason incurred CCC obligations in supplying the camps. In 1935 and 1936 the
construction quartermaster selected a site in the lower Presidio for the construction of a shed
10 Col. C.D. Hartman, San Francisco District engineer, July 1, 1938, to the Construction Quartermaster, San
Francisco and Vicinity; and William Mooser, Jr., Report on Progress of the \ v orks Program in San Francisco,
January 1938, both in OCE, General Correspondence 1927-1939, RG 77, NA. The stone retaining walls along Kobbe
Avenue and elsewhere in Fort Scott probably were built at this time with WPA funds.
11. Maj. Gen. Malin Craig, June 1, 1934, to the Adjutant General, War Department, OQMG, GCGF 1922-1935,
RG 92, NA. In 1935 the school's staff and students amounted to sixty-nine people.
12. Maj. F.D. Jones, Construction Quartermaster, April 1, 1940, Completion Reports, 1917-1919, Presidio,
OQMG, RG 92, NA.
for the storage of vehicles to be used in CCC activities. Measuring 54 feet by 468 feet, the
shed had twenty-six sets of double doors and a floor of crushed rock. Completed in March
1936, it cost $5,250. Another new CCC shed stored tent poles. Measuring 60 feet by 255 feet
and having no floor, it too was completed in March. A third structure consisted of an
addition to an existing storehouse. This one-story, wood frame building, measuring 20 feet
by 216 feet, had a six-inch thick concrete floor and nineteen double hinged doors. Completed
in September 1935, it cost less than $2,000. It stored Signal Corps supplies destined for the
CCC camps. Still another wood frame storehouse, measuring 74 feet by 134 feet with an eight-
foot wide loading platform next to the railroad was completed in October 1935 for the CCC
at a cost of $8,000. It is not known if any of these structures served to house the 12,133 steel
cots reported to be sitting in the rain. None of these buildings is known to exist today.
Although CCC companies were active at Forts Baker and Barry in Marin County in the 1930s,
it appears that none carried out projects at the Presidio, where WPA activities held sway. 13
E. Officers' Club
As early as 1931, the War Department and the Presidio began exchanging
correspondence concerning the "restoration" of the officers' club (50). By then the 160-foot-
long original adobe portion had been sliced in two and a wood frame ballroom inserted in
the middle, the front of which extended slightly beyond the fronts of the two adobe wings. 14
In October 1931 the War Department asked several questions concerning existing architectural
details of the building. Those items concerning the adobe wings are presented here; but
concerning the ballroom, the construction quartermaster wrote, "The work of reconstructing
this ballroom was done some years ago by the Post QM with civilian and prison labor. The
large open fireplace was not properly constructed; it smokes and cannot be used as
Concerning the floors of the adobe wings, "it appears that this floor must have been rebuilt
several times.. . the floor joists are 3" x 4" placed about 24" on centers, resting on an 8" x 8"
brick pier at each end . . . some [joists] are resting on earth and are decayed. . . . The top floor
is 1" x 6", T&G O.P. flooring." When asked about the roof and ceiling over the adobes, he said
that the roof had 4" x 4" rafters 32" on centers, shingle lath with wooden shingles, and over
13. Construction Quartermaster, Fort Mason, December 11, 1935, and March 25 and May 5, 1936, OQMG,
Construction Division, Completion Reports, 1917-1919 [sic], RG 92, NA.
14. Capt. B.L. Meeden, "Army's Finest Club Building - Restoration of the Officers Club at the Presidio of San
Francisco," The Quartermaster Review (November - December 1934); Donovan P. Yeuell, "The Presidio Officers'
Club, The Oldest Adobe Building in San Francisco" (August 1934). Yeuell was a captain in the 30th Infantry.
them green strip shingles. The ceiling consisted of wooden sheathing and beamed into panel
effect and stippled. 15
The same officer again wrote before work began that the interiors of the adobe walls had been
furred out and sheathed by tongue and groove sheathing; a blank stock of felt was pasted
over that, and stippled to give all walls a uniform effect. He said that a two-inch by six-inch
ridge pole stretched over each adobe wing and he thought that the roof construction may
have occurred around 1880. 16
Capt. B.L. Meeden, who carried out the reconstruction in 1933-1934, described the building:
the adobe walls were fourteen feet high and from 4/2 to 5 feet thick; no original roof
remained, but indentures in the adobe showed where old log rafters had lain (old Spanish
vigas or early American rafters?); all the window and door openings were original but the
U.S. Army had installed the doors and windows [in the 1850s?]. His treatment of the adobe
walls involved dry-brushing them clean, then placing a false wall furred out about four inches
from their face. He covered that with metal lath and plaster which was given a "Spanish
stucco" finish. This construction allowed for the concealment of modern conveniences as well
as protection of the adobes. He left a small opening in the wall in the west wing in order to
display a section of the adobe. 17
The Army dedicated the "new" Presidio Officers' Open Mess on August 17,1934. An
enthusiastic 30th Infantry officer wrote that "the old building . . . sheltered since 1846 officers
of all the branches . . . the social center of the post at the cross-roads to the Orient, Hawaii,
the Philippines, Cuba, Panama and Alaska." The restoration of the old adobe building brought
out its true beauty as "the army's most historical building." 18
Work did not stop at that point. WPA funds allowed for additional improvements to the
structure from 1936 to 1939, although none of these seems to have involved the adobe walls
or their new roofs. Other elements received concrete foundations, new window frames, tar
15. Construction Quartermaster, Fort Mason, November 7, 1931, to the Quartermaster, Ninth Corps Area,
OQMG, GCGF 1922-1935, RG 92, NA.
16. Capt. H.B. Nurse, Fort Mason, March 8,1932, to QMG, OQMG, GCGF 1922-1935, RG 92, NA. It is
apparent that substantial remains of an adobe building enclose both sides and one end each of the DeAnza and
Mesa Rooms in the present Officers' Club.
17. Meeden, "Army's Finest Building."
18. Yeuel, "Presidio Officers' Club."
.PORTOU I ARCUELLO
47. Presidio's Officers' Club, 1990. the DeAnza and LaMesa rooms on either side of the center section have
remnants of the adobe walls from the Spanish /Mexican era.
48. Central Reserve Magazine built by the Golden Gate Bridge & Highway District for the U.S. Army when
bridge construction destroyed some coastal batteries in the 1930s. E. Thompson, 1991
and gravel roofs, awnings, improved officers' latrine, concrete floor in a storeroom, a patio,
new kitchen, and so forth. One report stated, "The changes effected ... in no way altered the
Spanish effect of the exterior of the club. All exterior work . . . was made to conform to the
old, Spanish architectural motif which had been achieved previously when this building was
restored to its original appearance." Such was the state of preservation and restoration in the
19. Lt. Col. J.F. Byron, August 4, 1938, Completion Report for Officers' Club, and accompanying papers,
OQMG, Completion Reports 1917-1919, RG 92, NA.
F. Golden Gate Bridge
On April 9, 1924, the San Francisco District Engineer, Col. Herbert Deakyne, wrote
Washington that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors had requested approval of plans for
a bridge across the Golden Gate. Deakyne noted that Washington's approval was necessary
because the federal government owned the land at both ends, the Presidio and Fort Baker.
In December, Secretary of War John W. Weeks issued a provisional permit authorizing the
newly-formed Golden Gate Bridge & Highway District (GGB&HD) to proceed with the
planning. A special army board of high-ranking Engineer officers held a public hearing in San
Francisco on June 30, 1930. Some opposition surfaced and raised concerns about the effects
of a bridge on military defense, scenery, and earthquakes. Nonetheless, Deakyne
recommended approval of the concept, noting, by the way, that cars would probably cross
the bridge at fifteen miles per hour. Finally, on August 11, 1930, the War Department
grudgingly issued a permit for GGB&HD to proceed with construction.
Construction officially began January 5, 1933, and those concerned celebrated at a ground-
breaking at Crissy Field on February 26, "the like of which for pageantry and enthusiastic
support of the citizenry had never before been witnessed in the bay region." 20 Since the
bridge approaches on the south side would pass through the Presidio and thus affect the
coastal fortifications and other military structures, the Army required GGB&HD at its own
expense to replace features it destroyed or moved. Secretary Weeks wrote that the Army must
have complete control of the bridge in time of war and that government traffic must be free
of charge at all times.
The bridge's chief engineer, Joseph B. Strauss, wrote that these army requirements were "a
most exacting and trying phase of the work, and for the same reason its cost was an item
which constantly grew larger." The district found itself constructing several artillery fire
control stations, a $125,000 Central Reserve Ammunition Magazine (1470 and 1471), rifle
range, machine shops, drainage and sewer systems, and gas stations, both at Fort Scott and
The bridge approach roads destroyed batteries Lancaster and Slaughter, both disarmed and
considered obsolete although their underground magazines still served as storerooms. Strauss
supervised the diversion of Lincoln Boulevard just south of the toll plaza, reconstructed and
depressed a portion of it, and constructed an overpass for the bridge approach road to
connect with the toll plaza. The Presidio road work alone cost $1,340,000. Strauss wrote, "Set
into the roadway on the center line of the bridge at a distance of 180 feet southward from the
20. Thompson, Fortifications, pp. 290-92.
south abutment is a starred disk of bronze marking the center of the old fire control station
[battery commander's station] at Battery Lancaster which once occupied this site." It was at
this station that Strauss had initiated his first reconnaissance for the bridge. 21
G. World War II
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, both the Presidio and Fort Scott
immediately went on a full twenty-four-hour alert and for the first time in its long existence
the Presidio closed the gates to the public. Soldiers hastily placed barbed wire, machine guns,
and antiaircraft guns on the Presidio Golf Course, Baker Beach, old Fort Point, and other
strategic points on and off the reservations. A few weeks later a quartermaster colonel visited
the Presidio and found considerable confusion mixed with great activity. He advised the War
Department that the lack of quartermaster personnel confounded by the constant shifting
around of personnel created serious problems. The Presidio had become a staging area and
no one knew from day to day what units would arrive or depart. The post had to be geared
to run a twenty-four-hour operation for the rapid issuance of food, clothing, bedding, and so
Confusion, perhaps, but not unpreparedness. For over a year the Army had been constructing
cantonments in the Presidio for a rapid expansion in strength in case of an emergency. These
mobilization-type structures that became so familiar to soldiers nation-wide in World War II,
sprang up in five locations: Area A, on the bay front between Marine Drive and Mason Street,
east of Crissy Field; Area B, on the bay front between Marine Drive and Mason Street, west
of Crissy Field; Area C, between Mason Street and the Golden Gate Bridge Approach, south
of Crissy Field; Area D, west of Halleck Street and south of the Golden Gate Bridge
Approach; and Area E, north of Moraga Avenue and east of Graham Street. Construction
began November 1, 1940, and the cantonments stood completed in February 1941.
Of the five, only two remain extant - B and E. Areas A and D remained intact until recent
times but are now extinct. A motor pool that replaced Area C has since been replaced by a
commissary. Area A consisted of ten two-story, 63-man barracks, two one-story day rooms,
21. Col. Herbert Deakyne, April 9, 1924, to Chief of Engineers, and accompanying papers, OQMG, GCGF
1922-1935, RG 92, NA; Joseph B. Strauss, The Golden Gate Bridge, Report of the Chief Engineer to the Board of
Directors of the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District, California (San Francisco, 1938), pp. 31,39,48,51-52, and
58. Strauss also had to build overpasses for the southern approach road when the Park Presidio tunnel opened
to bridge traffic on April 21, 1940.
22. Stewart and Erwin, [History of the Presidio], p. 71; Col. D.H, Cowles, January 19,1942, to QMG, OQMG,
GCGF 1935-1945, RG 92, NA.
a one-story administration building, post exchange, three storehouses (that also housed the
company orderly rooms), and two 250-man mess halls. In August 1941, Area A increased its
capacity with the addition of five barracks, two storehouses, a day room, and another 250-
man mess hall.
Area B, similar in appearance, contained ten barracks, two day rooms, three storehouses, a
post exchange, two mess halls, and a warehouse. Today numbered 901 through 919, they
house various offices.
Two forty-man bachelor officers' quarters comprised area E. Each had its own mess. They are
extant and are numbered 40 and 41. 23
Also built on the eve of war, an administration building (37) stood immediately west of Ninth
Corps Area headquarters. Constructed in the shape of the letter E, the wood frame building
possessed a Vernacular or Utilitarian style. Since the war it has continued to house offices.
Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt, commanding Fourth Army since 1939 and the Western Defense
Command since 1941, transferred in September 1943 to become commandant of the Army and
Navy Staff College in Washington, D.C. His departure left vacant the handsome Quarters 1
at Fort Mason that had housed commanding generals for the past sixty-six years. His
successor, Lt. Gen. William H. Simpson, became the first occupant of a new general's quarters,
also number 1, in the former East Cantonment at the Presidio. The residence, commanding
a splendid view of San Francisco Bay, and its garage (517) were both erected in 1943. 24
Also built during the war, the Red Cross building (97) stood near the intersection of Moraga
Avenue and Arguello Boulevard in the main post area. Completed in 1942 in a Spanish
Mediterranean Revival style, the one-story, tile-roofed, stucco building, had a red cross
embedded in cement on all four sides of the chimneys. The Red Cross financed the building,
23. Capt. J.H. Veal, October 28 and November 15, 1941, Completion Reports on Temporary Housing at
Presidio, Completion Reports, RG 77, NA. Two long, narrow structures, 249 and 250, remained in Area A in 1990.
They were not part of the original construction and appeared to be fill-ins, possibly built when Letterman General
Hospital took over Area A in World War II. Whether or not they contained some of the 900 hospital beds in Area
A is unknown. Three other former barracks from the 1941 addition to Area A, 273, 276, and 277, also remained
24. The Army Almanac, pp. 37,78,199, and 330; Erwin Thompson, "Commanding Generals at Fort Mason,"
ms (1979), p. 68.
while the construction quartermaster revised its plans to conform with other buildings in the
area and supervised its construction. 25
When the Army gave the Palace of Fine Arts to the City of San Francisco in 1927, the military
stipulated in the agreement that it could reoccupy the building in the event of war. And so
it came to be. The Palace became an army warehouse during World War II and helped ease
the severe overcrowding in storage facilities for the San Francisco Port of Embarkation. 26
As the tempo of the world war increased, Fort Winfield Scott, languishing in the decades
following World War I, sprang into high gear as the headquarters of the coastal defenses of
San Francisco in 1941. Among the first of the new buildings were the mobilization-type
structures erected east of the parade: administration building (1239); post exchange warehouse
(1241); and three quartermaster storehouses (1242, 1243, and 1244). North of the parade
ground three structures added to the amenities of the post, all wood frame: theater (1387)
which was later converted to a bowling alley, chapel (1389), and a small building (1390) said
to have been a nursery but which may have had an earlier function. To the west of the
parade, the Army built an indoor shooting range (1369) in 1941, as well as a radio station
(1444) in the vicinity of the abandoned mortar batteries McKinnon-Stotsenberg. The year 1942
saw at least two other structures added to the post: a post office (1237) south of the parade
ground, and a small post exchange storehouse (1225) in the warehouse area.
Perhaps the most imposing wartime building at Fort Scott, a 1943 general officer's residence
(1332) stood splendidly isolated on its own road, Wright Loop, south of officers' row. Fort
Scott, however, was nearing the end of its role as a coast defense post as World War II came
to an end. Atomic weapons, missiles, and highly developed techniques in amphibious
landings made the traditional concepts of defending harbors obsolete. Soon Fort Scott's
facilities would become part of the Presidio of San Francisco.
25. Public Relations Section, Ninth Zone Construction Quartermaster, San Francisco, Press Release, "New Red
Cross Headquarters," October 27, 1941.
2b. San Francisco Examiner, January 23, 1949.
/ If 2
50. San Francisco from the air, possibly 1945. Fort Winfield Scott in foreground. Cleared area in middle left
had been the runway for Crissy Field. The long dark lines are hospital trains for Letterman General
Hospital (this activity was at its height in 1944-1945). San Francisco Public Library
CHAPTER 7: THE PRESIDIO 1945-1990
A. Sixth U.S. Army
A genuine war hero, Gen. Joseph W. "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell became commander of the
Western Defense Command in December 1945. When that wartime organization was
deactivated on January 28, 1946, Stilwell remained at the Presidio and on March 8, 1946,
assumed command of the Sixth U.S. Army with his headquarters in the former barracks (38)
and his residence in Presidio Quarters 1. His term as commanding general ended with his
death at Letterman General Hospital on October 12, 1946. 1
Sixth U.S. Army, actually a tenant at the Presidio, provided defense for the western states of
Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah,
Nevada, California, and Arizona. Three additional states came under its command later:
Nebraska, Kansas, and New Mexico. 2
While World War II still waged, forty-six nations met at the Conference at San Francisco to
draft the charter of the United Nations Organization from April to June 1945. When President
Harry S. Truman offered the Presidio of San Francisco as a site for the United Nations
headquarters, a UN committee inspected the Presidio on November 23, 1946. But the Soviet
Union's strong objection to the headquarters being anywhere on the West Coast, combined
with Nelson Rockefeller's offer to donate land in New York City, ended that idea.
Real estate speculators and others campaigned at this time and for years to come for the
Army to abandon the Presidio so that the area could be developed. Throughout 1947 local
newspapers carried an on-going debate whether the Presidio should be developed for housing
or preserved as a national monument. In 1948 the San Francisco Chronicle announced a plan
for developers to fill 320 acres in front of the lower Presidio from Fort Point to the Yacht Club
and to construct 12,000 apartments there. The mayor supported the concept; the Army, of
course, opposed it. 3 By the 1950s both leading papers dropped the name "Presidio of San
Francisco" and began referring to the area as "Idle Acres." During the Eisenhower
1. General Stilwell, an expert on Chinese military affairs, spent much of World War II in the China-Burma-
India theater and for a time served as chief of staff to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The barracks at Crissy Field
was named in his honor in 1947. The Sixth Army fought throughout the South and Central Pacific in World War
II. Deactivated in Japan on January 28, 1946, it became reactivated at the Presidio on March 1, 1946. PSF, Post
Diary, 1919-1948, and Post Diary 1946-1953; Webster s American Military Biographies, pp. 413-414.
2. Unofficial Guide, Presidio of San Francisco (1975), p. 14.
3. San Francisco Chronicle, December 5, 1948.
administration, in 1955, the Hoover Commission recommended that the Defense Department
consider disposing of the Presidio. The Army sprang into action saying that the reservation
was essential to national defense. Newly retired Korean War hero, Gen. William F. Dean, gave
public speeches in the Bay Area favoring the Army's retention. A colonel prepared a
document showing how much money the Presidio poured into the local economy and how
much it would cost taxpayers to move Sixth Army elsewhere. Also, he said with a straight
face, when the old coastal casemates were renovated, "this station will have facilities to
protect installations against thermonuclear attack without parallel in the United States." 4 Lt.
Gen. Robert N. Young, commanding, wrote the Secretary of the Army listing the reasons why
the Army should remain:
NIKE battery on the Presidio.
National Guard had an antiaircraft battery on the site.
Headquarters for two antiaircraft battalions.
Presidio support for all NIKE installations in Bay Area.
Headquarters, Sixth Army.
Nineteen Army Reserve units trained at the Presidio.
A citizen, concerned about the Presidio's fate, wrote, "The Presidio is to the West what Fort
Ethan Allen and Yorktown are to the East, the Alamo to the Southwest, and Mount Vernon
to the Nation." 5
In 1958 the Presidio's mission increased with the creation of the XV U.S. Army Corps. This
headquarters assumed responsibility for all Army Reserve activities in California, Arizona,
and Nevada. To emphasize its own importance the Presidio issued a "Fact Sheet" in 1961
stating that the number of personnel, military and civilian, employed on the post amounted
to almost 10,000. Sixth Army trained ROTC units, the National Defense Cadet Corps, and
National Guard and Army Reserve units throughout nine western states. Letterman General
Hospital had grown to include a Radioactive Isotope Center and an Open- Heart Surgery
The Army's efforts began to pay off by 1962 when a group of citizens formed to save the
Presidio. San Francisco's mayor now favored the Army's remaining. The gathering
4. Col. C.E. Lundquist, PSF, April 14, 1955, to CG, Sixth Army, PSF Lands, RG 338, NA-San Francisco
5. Lt. Gen. Robi.t N. Young, January 4, 1957, to Secretary Wilbur M. Buckner; William Keese, October 3,
1961, to Secretary of Deu nse Robert S. McNamara, PSF Lands, RG 338, NA-San Francisco Branch.
6. PSF, "Fact Sheet," September 29, 1961. Copy in Presidio Army Museum.
momentum of these efforts paid dividends early in 1963 when Lawrence C. Merriam, Western
Regional Director, National Park Service, presented a certificate and plaque to the
commanding officer designating the Presidio a national historic landmark. Secretary of the
Army Stephen Ailes along with 2,000 others attended the ceremony and announced that the
Presidio would remain a part of the Army. 7
A 1966 information brochure published for the benefit of newcomers identified the locations
of the various headquarters in the Presidio:
Sixth Army, in barracks 38 and 39.
Letterman General Hospital, in administration 1016.
XV U.S. Army Corps, in Stilwell Hall 650.
6th Region, U.S. Army Air Defense Command, at Fort Baker.
U.S. Garrison (post headquarters), in building 220.
40th Artillery Brigade, Air Defense, in administration 1201, Fort Scott.
It also noted that three officers' clubs operated on the reservation: Presidio, Letterman, and
Fort Scott. 8
In 1973, apart from Sixth Army headquarters, the Presidio itself became a part of a network
of combat-ready army installations under the newly established U.S. Forces Command,
headquartered at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, Georgia. The Presidio's tenants in the mid-1970s
525th Military Intelligence Group
Sixth Region, U.S.A. Criminal Investigation Command
Headquarters, U.S.A. Sixth Recruiting District
San Francisco U.S. Army Reserve Center
Golden Gate U.S. Army Reserve Center
American Red Cross
U.S. Coast Guard Station
San Francisco National Cemetery
Letterman Army Medical Center 9
Office of the Information Officer, Sixth Army, press release, February 25, 1963, PSF Lands, RG 338, NA-
San Francisco Branch. An excellent collection of documents concerning the disputes over Presidio lands is found
in "Content Analysis of News Clippings Pertaining to Presidio Lands, April 1870 to January 1966," is in File R-3,
Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
8. PSF, "Information Brochure," 1966. Copy in Presidio Museum.
9. Langellier, "Under Three Flags," p. 10; Unofficial Guide, Presidio of San Francisco (1975), p. 14.
In addition to tenants, the Presidio issued leases, licenses, permits, and so forth to non-army-
entities within or encroaching on the reservation. They included: Julius Kahn Playground,
public telephone, credit union, seismograph installation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, City
of San Francisco, Pacific Bell, National Recreation Trail, Boy Scouts, Eisenhower National
Bank, Burger King, Fort Point and Army Museum Association, and American Battle
Monuments Commission. 10
In October 1972 President Richard M. Nixon signed a law that established Golden Gate
National Recreation Area in California. This law directed the Army to issue an irrevocable
permit to the National Park Service for land along the Presidio's bay and ocean fronts to
include portions of Crissy Field, the coastal defense batteries, and Baker Beach. The law also
stated that when the Department of Defense determined that Presidio lands were determined
to be excess to its needs, such lands would be transferred to the Department of the Interior
for national park purposes. 11
In 1948 the Army received authorization to build duplex officers' quarters for eighty
families on Presidio Hill above Infantry Terrace. Twenty-three buildings (between numbers
401 and 434) were erected along Washington Boulevard. Also at this time a congressional
committee visited army and navy installations in the Bay Area noting the great difference in
World War II construction between the two services. "All of us were struck sharply by the
marked differences in appearance of the Army and Navy installations. We discovered that
most Navy installations in this area are permanent installations with expensive concrete
buildings and steel framework. On the other hand, practically without exception, the Army
installations contained temporary structures, most of them apparently built during the
war. . . . We believe this matter needs to be looked into." What, if anything, became of these
observations remains unknown. 12
Despite the new officers' quarters, the Presidio continued to experience a housing shortage.
In 1948 it learned that the federal government had developed a program (the Wherry Act)
whereby private enterprise could lease government-owned land and construct housing
thereon to rent to military personnel. The Presidio then leased thirty-eight acres near the
10. Files, Real Estate Office, Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
11. Public Law 92-589.
12. Report of the Subcommittee on Procurement and Supply of the Committee on Armed Services in the Bay
Area, September 15-19, 1947, OQMG, GCGF 1946-48, RG 92, NA.
southwest corner of the reservation, free of cost, to the George Bauer Company of Portland,
Oregon. The company constructed 500 housing units on the site, completing them in 1953.
A 1959 report noted that the units had either two or three bedrooms. A junior field grade
officer (i.e., a major) was allotted 776 square feet; company grade officer, 707 square feet; and
noncommissioned officers, 700 square feet. Of the 500 units personnel from the Presidio
occupied 259 of them; the U.S. Army Transportation Terminal Command, 30 units; Letterman
General Hospital, 78; and the U.S. Navy, 133. Before long the military concluded that the
quarters lacked sufficient floor space and that the quality of construction was poor.
In 1959 the Department of the Army alerted Sixth Army that Congress was now interested
in the Army's purchasing the Wherry project. Alarmed about having to acquire the
substandard housing, the Presidio responded saying that it did not wish to acquire the
housing, because it would have to increase the rents. Washington kept the pressure on. Still,
as late as 1961, the Presidio argued that the units were too crowded; rehabilitation costs
would be expensive; both bedrooms and storage areas were too small; the kitchens, crowded;
no soundproofing; utilities, undersized; and major rewiring needed. In November 1962 the
post commander learned that the Army would purchase the Wherry housing. He
recommended assigning it to enlisted personnel only.
If their quarters were not always elegant, the Presidio's enlisted personnel enjoyed the
services of a new club. Conceived by General Stilwell in 1946 and dedicated by Gen. Mark
Clark the large, first-class service club (135), built at the main post with nonappropriated
funds, opened its doors in 1949. But by 1964 the number of noncommissioned officers
exceeded the number of privates on the post, and the commander decided that the service
club should become an NCO's open mess, and the privates were shunted off to the NCO's
old stone-and-log club (1299) at Fort Scott. During the Korean War several important events
occurred in building 135, still fresh from the carpenter's hammer. On September 1, 1951,
representatives of the United States, New Zealand, and Australia met there to sign a Tripartite
Security Treaty (the ANZUS pact) that provided for mutual assistance in matters of defense.
A week later forty-nine nations met with Japan at the War Memorial Opera House to sign the
difinitive Treaty of Peace ending World War II. That same day U.S. delegates met with
Japanese delegates in the service club to sign a joint security pact, in effect an alliance
between the two nations that so recently had been enemies. In 1953 senior officers of the
Chinese Nationalist Army held a press conference in the building. Later that year, near the
13. Department of the Army, August 4, 1958, to CG, Sixth Army; Commanding officer, PSF, November 13,
1962, to CG, Sixth Army, both in File P-4, Master Plans, DEH, PSF; San Francisco Examiner, January 22, 1952.
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52. Wheery Housing, 500 units, completed in 1953. Map, Presidio of San Francisco, 1987
end of the Korean War, the first of the returning American prisoners of war came here to
meet their relatives or to prepare for the journey home. 14
In 1950 the Army completed another construction project involving an enlisted man, the U.S.
Army Reserve Center at former Crissy Field (649 and 644). At that time the Army named new
reserve centers for enlisted men rather than for officers. In this case "Harmon Hall USAR
Center" honored Sgt. Roy W. Harmon, killed in action in Italy in 1944. Harmon, assigned to
the Ninety-first Infantry Division, was a native Californian. In July enemy machine gun fire
near Casaglia stopped the advance of his company. Ordered to neutralize the enemy fire,
Harmon led his squad forward. When it became pinned down, he alone mounted an assault,
destroying three enemy machine guns in quick succession. Although wounded twice, he
destroyed the third gun just as he fell dead. The U.S. Congress awarded the Medal of Honor,
posthumously. (It is probable that Sergeant Harmon served at the Presidio earlier in his army
Other events concerning the Presidio's structures in the 1950s included a disastrous fire at
Fort Scott that occurred in May 1951. It started in officers' quarters 1290. Mrs. Ellis Burns and
her oldest child went to the hospital with serious burns, but both her younger children died
in the blaze. Two months later the Presidio erected a new, 105-foot flagstaff on the site of
General Pershing's house that had burned so tragically many years before. It was said to be
the tallest flag pole in the Bay area. In 1952 the Presidio caused a controversy by erecting a
metal mesh fence on the top of the stone wall along Lyon Street. It ran for three blocks in the
vicinity of Greenwich, Union, and Filbert streets. When the neighbors protested, the Army
announced it was necessary because of new national security matters that could not be
discussed. Many people thought that the real reason was protection for Lt. Gen. Joseph M.
Swing's quarters that stood near the reservation boundary. 16 The fence remained.
The Chapel of Our Lady, the Presidio's first chapel (45), underwent a thorough renovation
in 1952. Workmen enlarged the building, added a wing, and replaced the west and south
walls with glass. The chapel acquired another addition of 964 square feet in 1970. The little
building, that measured twenty-four feet by forty-five feet during the Civil War, now
14. File N-2, Master Plans, DEH, PSF. During the Korean War most troops rotated by ship, not air.
15. U.S. Senate, 90th Cong., 2d sess., Medal of honor, 1863-1968, "In the Name of the Congress of the United States:
(Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968), pp. 574-575.
16. PSF, Post Diary, 1946-1953; San Francisco Call-Bulletin, January 18, 1952; San Francisco Examiner, January
18 and 21, 1952; San Francisco Chronicle, January 23, 1952. Still another fire destroyed eight units of the Wherry
housing on March 17, 1953. And in February 1973 fire destroyed the post headquarters building (200).
contained a narthea, nave, baptistery, side aisles, sanctuary, Blessed Sacrament altar, sacristy
altar boy room, confessionals, choir room, and utility rooms. 17
Until 1956 the Presidio Golf Club just outside the reservation maintained control over the
Presidio Golf Course which lay on federal property. In 1925 an army inspector general
discovered this arrangement and soon thereafter the Secretary of War directed the Presidio's
commanding officer to regain control of the course, to organize an army club, and to permit
such civilian membership as he deemed appropriate. Writing in 1956, Lt. Gen. Robert N.
Young, Sixth Army, said, "So far as I can tell, this directive has never been complied with.
The civilian membership feel that they have a vested right to the golf course even though it
is on a military reservation."
General Young had a solution. The civilian club had recently approached him saying that the
golf course badly needed an automatic watering system and asked him if he would use
welfare funds to install such as the club could not afford to do so. Young replied that he
could not use welfare funds because the military did not control the operation. After thinking
it over, the civilian club agreed that the Army should take over the course and control its
upkeep, maintenance, and management. 18
Still another complex of officers' quarters, the 1400 series, came into being in the late 1960s.
Quarters 1401-1425, south of Battery McKinnon-Stotsenberg and built in 1966, appear to have
housed officers of the regular garrison. The nearby 1431-1443 group, built in 1969, possibly
were associated with the NIKE battery in the area.
New construction at the Presidio in the 1970s included an automatic data processing center
(34) adjacent to the main parade ground. Completed in 1967 it contained 32,000 square feet.
A large addition to the Presidio officers' club, completed in 1973, cost $1.25 million. It
contained a banquet-ballroom with a stage and other rooms. On July 4, 1974, Wright Army
Hospital (2), which in recent years had served as a dental clinic and a drug rehabilitation
center, was dedicated as the Presidio Army Museum, which had opened its doors to visitors
in March 1974. A collection of thirty-two sets of officers' quarters (1211-1280), built in 1970
at Fort Scott, crowded the area between the Golden Gate Bridge approach road and the
former officers' quarters of Crissy Field. Also in this decade the Army commenced
17. Milton B. Halsey, Jr., "Point Paper, The Presidio Chapels" (ca. 1990); File C-4, Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
18. Lt. Gen. Robert N. Young, January 29, 1956, to Lt. Gen. Laurin L. Williams, Comptroller of the Army, PSF
Lands, RG 338, NA-San Francisco Branch. At the time of the base closure announcement, the Army had plans to
build its own clubhouse on the Presidio.
demolishing the World War II buildings in Area A. in the eastern part of the lower Presidio
(the Army transferred several of these wood frame structures to the National Park Service in
In 1980 the Army learned that the brick barracks 101-105 did not meet the minimum seismic
standards for billets, but that they did meet them for administrative purposes. At that time
the Presidio's Headquarters Company occupied buildings 101 and 105 (male soldiers) and 104
(female soldiers). These people began the move from the barracks to Fort Scott, and all the
brick barracks except 100 eventually became office buildings. 20
In 1978 the Department of Defense initiated a base realignment study to investigate whether
or not the Presidio of San Francisco should continue to operate as an active post. When the
study concluded in 1979 it announced that the post should remain an active permanent
installation. As a result some much needed new construction proceeded in the 1980s. A
sparkling, new commissary replaced the ancient buildings (251 and 252) that were worn out
and when open for business resembled food lines in third-world countries. A modern bowling
alley (92), completed in 1988, stood near the southwest corner of the main parade near an up-
to-date library (386) built in 1960 and a child-care center (387) in the same area. Elsewhere on
the reservation the Public Health Service hospital closed its doors in 1989 and, for a short
time, the main building served as a temporary home for the Army Language School, whose
new facilities were taking shape at the Presidio of Monterey. The Sixth Army Operations
Center in building 38 underwent modifications in its basement in 1985. Workmen ripped out
the existing facilities in the basement and replaced them with a classified library,
administrative offices, and postal facilities. They completed a computer room (Worldwide
Military Command and Control System Computer Center - WWMCCS!) and emergency
standby power. The War Room stood directly under the Command Group that was located
on the first floor. The Engineers noted that other than blocking some windows for security,
no negative effect resulted concerning the building's historical significance. 21
In 1984 the Presidio had a forest management plan prepared for both itself and East Fort
Baker. After describing how the Army should proceed, the contractor noted the existing
19. PSF, "Annual Historical Supplement," for 1967 and 1973; "Annual Historical Information Report," October
1978-September 1979, File K-2, Master Plans, DEH, PSF. When the post hospital became the Wright Army Hospital
has not been learned. It probably was named for either Brig. Gen. George Wright, commander of the Department
of the Pacific during the Civil War, or his son, Thomas Wright, commander of the Presidio during the Civil War.
20. "Annual Historical Supplement, Presidio of San Francisco ... 1 October 1979-3 September 1980. The post
comptroller's office and the finance and accounting office had already occupied barracks 103.
21. Files D-3 and E4, Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
conditions. He said that not much regeneration was taking place in the forest that was now
approaching 100 years of age, except the eucalyptus. Much forest litter covered the ground
and he considered that to be a fire danger. Eucalyptus covered 157 acres; Monterey cypress,
127 acres; Monterey pine, 32 acres, and redwood, willow, and oak occupied minor acreage.
He identified endangered species: Arctostaphylos hookeri spp ravcnii (Presidio manzanita, better
known as ravens' manzanita), Clarkia franciscana (Presidio clarkia), and Plagiobothrys diffusus
(San Francisco popcorn flower); and rare species, Lessinagia germanorum (San Francisco
lessingia), Grindella maritima (gumplant), Hesperolinum congestion (Marin dwarf flax), and
Orthocarpus floribundus. 22
As the 1980s proceeded, the Presidio's Master Plans office prepared additional plans for the
future. Besides a proposed golf clubhouse, all the Engineer buildings, including 283, in the
lower Presidio, would be replaced by four new structures. A 400-seat chapel would replace
the old cavalry barracks (682). Battery Dynamite would have a new life as a alternate
emergency operations center with a capacity for 120 people. 23 Then everything changed. In
1989 the U.S. Congress approved a report by the Secretary of Defense's Commission on Base
Realignment and Closure that had recommended the closure of the Presidio of San Francisco,
thus paving the way for the grand old post to become part of the National Park System. 24
22. Joe R. McBride, Forest Management Plan for the Presidio and East Fort Baker (1984).
23. File K-4, Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
24. Jack Edwards, Co-chairman, Commission on Base Realignment and Closure, December 29, 1988, to
Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci; [Doug Nadeau], Draft, Planning Guidelines for the Presidio of San
Francisco, August 11, 1989.
Noncommissioned officers' club completed in 1949. During the Korean War several important
international events, including the signing of a Treaty of Peace with Japan, occurred in this building. E.
54. The Chapel of Our Lady, the post's first chapel and now Catholic, underwent renovations in 1952 and
1970. Other than the steeple, little remains of the structure Civil War appearance. E. Thompson, 1991
CHAPTER 8: THE TENANTS AND OTHER ACTIVITIES
Within the boundaries of the Presidio and Fort Scott, several independent entities acquired
permits, licenses, leases, or permission to carry out their activities on the military reservation.
Some of these, such as Letterman General Hospital and the Western Research Laboratory
(later Letterman Army Institute of Research) were army organizations independent of the
Presidio's command. While separate organizations, they were, however, dependent on the
Presidio for logistical support, provided by an Inter-Service Support Agreement. Other
organizations, such as the U.S. Coast Guard's Fort Point Life Saving Station, operated as fully
independent entities, including logistics, having acquired permits from the Army to occupy
lands within the reservation to carry out their responsibilities.
A-l. Letterman Army Medical Center
When the chief surgeon of the Department of California learned in 1898 that as a
consequence of war breaking out between the United States and Spain more than twenty
thousand army troops would be passing through San Francisco en route to the Philippine
Islands, Hawaii, and other destinations in the Pacific, he recommended construction of a 500-
bed army hospital. A tent hospital at Camp Merritt proving unsuitable, a "general hospital"
was organized on December 1, 1898, in the Presidio's brick barracks per the War
Department's General Orders 182 which stated that the hospital formerly known as the
Division Field Hospital at San Francisco had become the United States Army General
Hospital. The first post return for the hospital, December 31, 1898, showed the commanding
officer to be Maj. Willard S. H. Matthews, a surgeon in the 51st Iowa Volunteers. His staff at
that date consisted of four contract surgeons, two army officers, twenty-three contract nurses,
and sixty-one enlisted men. The patients already numbered 178. 1
By the summer of 1899, Lt. Col. Alfred C. Girard, an army surgeon since 1867 and later a
brigadier general, had assumed command. He found that a contract had been let to a San
Francisco architect, W.H. Wilcox, who had begun construction of a general hospital of 350
beds on the Presidio reservation near the eastern boundary. He had mixed feelings about the
site. While it was close to the city, the main post, and the camps, it was exposed to high
winds, fog, and the liquor stores just outside the reservation - this last a plague that lasted
1. Letterman General Hospital, hereinafter cited as LGH, Post Returns, December 1898, Roll 973, NA;
"History, Letterman Army Hospital, June 27, 1951," Land Acquisition and Letterman Construction Files, 1898-1980,
RG 112, NA-San Francisco; Report of the Surgeon-General of the Army to the Secretary of War . . . June 30, 1900
(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1900), p. 29.
for years. He described the new hospital as being a pavilion-type with a rectangular veranda
joining the structures on all sides. The ten wards, staff quarters, administration building, and
so forth, all wood frame, had one or two stories.
An article appeared in a 1900 issue of Overland Monthly that had nothing but praise for the
new hospital as well as the Medical Corps in general:
This is perhaps the largest hospital in the United States . . . erected in
1899 at a cost of about $400,000. ... It is built on the pavilion plan . . . and
covers six acres of ground. Its equipment includes an electric light plant, water
works and filters, steam heat, ice factory, bakery, laundry, repair shops,
printing office, post office, dispensary, pathological laboratory, surgical
operating ward . . . everything indeed that may be serviceable in a model
modern hospital. 2
A later observer noted that Girard succeeded in establishing an efficient operation despite
incompetent help, measles epidemics, shiploads of wounded from the Philippines, swarms
of flies and mosquitoes, and a 1901 fire that destroyed several wards and mess facilities. 3
Conditions gradually improved in those early years: 1901, an x-ray laboratory; 1904,
construction of a $22,000 operating pavilion; and 1905, dental clinic. When the earthquake hit
San Francisco in 1906, the commanding officer, Brig. Gen. George H. Torney, took charge of
the city's sanitation and the hospital opened its doors to the sick and injured. In 1911, War
Department General Orders 152 changed the name to Letterman General Hospital in honor
of Jonathan Letterman, medical director of the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War,
who revolutionized the medical service at the front lines. He died in San Francisco in 1872. 4
The Surgeon General reported in 1916 that Letterman served as a "base hospital" for the
Philippines and Hawaii, a "post hospital" for army installations in the Bay Area, and a
"general hospital" for the western part of the United States. Before World War I, Letterman
averaged 3,000 patients annually. When the United States entered the war in 1917, the
hospital expanded rapidly to 1,200 beds. The Surgeon General designated Letterman an
orthopedics center and amputees from the American Expeditionary Force in France came
there for treatment, the Presidio pioneering in the development of physical therapy.
Treatment of venereal diseases became a specialty at this time, and the hospital established
2. Paul Pickney, "Our Largest Army Hospital," Overland Monthly 36 (July-December 1900): 489-490.
3. Louis Mudgett, "A Brief History of Letterman Army Hospital" (typescript 1957), p. 1. Copy at Presidio
4. Webster's American Military Biographies, pp. 236-237.
55. Letterman General Hospital, ca. 1910. Officers' quarters on the right; administrative buildings on the left.
U.S. Army, Presidio Army Museum
56. Concrete administrative buildings 1012 (built in 1931) and 1013 (built in 1933) at Letterman. Both replaced
1899 wood-frame wards at the same site. E. Thompson, 1991
a division of neurology and psychiatry. Letterman also had a prison ward that accommodated
prisoner patients from all over the country. The staff now numbered fifty-six officers, 131
female nurses, 656 enlisted men, and 187 civilians. 5
Following the war the number of beds declined to 750. Patients arrived from the Philippines,
Hawaii, Alaska, China, Panama, and the western states. In 1923 Letterman sent a thirty-nine-
man detachment to Japan for earthquake relief where they remained for three months. In
1933, with the establishment of the CCC, the annual number of patients rose to 5,000. Then,
in 1941, Letterman became the debarkation hospital for the Pacific. Bed capacity increased to
3,500. During the war the hospital took over Area A - the mobilization-type barracks built
in 1941 in the eastern part of the lower Presidio (900 beds) and leased a civilian hospital in
the city (238 beds) at Broadway and Van Ness. The year 1945 alone saw 72,000 patients pass
through Letterman. And in one day, October 20, a record of 1,862 patients were admitted
from hospital ships. 6
As the war in the Pacific grew to dramatic heights in 1944-1945, the number of wounded
returning to Letterman grew in a like manner. In September and October 1944, alone, the
hospital evacuated 16,000 patients to other parts of the country. By December four full
hospital trains pulled out of the Crissy Field railroad yard daily. The Surgeon General
planned to have 111 hospital ward cars assigned to San Francisco by February 1945. While
the major railroad companies carried out maintenance and service of the hospital cars,
Hospital Train Unit SCU 1960, U.S.A., performed lower echelon maintenance work at lower
Only five years passed between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Korean
War when once again the number of patients at Letterman increased, but lightly. On July 1,
1950, the Department of the Army again changed the name to Letterman Army Hospital, per
General Orders 21. Of the 16,500 admissions during the war, twenty-eight percent were battle
Report of the Surgeon General, 1916, to the Secretary of War; Letterman General Hospital, Annual Report
1919, both in RG 112, NA-San Francisco. Formerly, each of the Bay Area posts, including the Presidio, had its own
post hospital. Now, with improved transportation and communication, Letterman served as the area's military
hospital. In some cases, former post hospitals became dispensaries.
6. Mudgett, "A Brief History," pp. 5 and 9-10; "History, 1951"; Booklet, Dedication Ceremony, February 14,
1969, L.G.H. Copy in Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
Col. H.H. (, .illicit, Ninth Service Command, December 22, 1944, to the San Francisco District Engineer,
RG 112, NA-San Francisco. By the end of the war there were 10,000 feet of track including a four-track yard in
the lower Presidio. File 0-1, Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
A 1957 engineer report listed Letterman's facilities. Of the 125 buildings, fifty-seven were
regarded as permanent. The hospital, then having 900 beds, occupied forty-eight acres. In the
fall of 1960 Letterman proudly announced the completion of a swimming pool (1151). Since
it was the only pool in the entire Presidio all commands could enjoy it, but the therapeutic
treatment of patients came first. 8
In fiscal year 1960, Letterman issued "Facts" concerning itself. Patient capacity at that time
amounted to 1,000 beds that could be expanded to 3,500 during an emergency. The cost of
the plant, since 1898, including improvements, amounted to more than $4.5 million. Installed
equipment accounted for $2.5 million more. The 1961 staffing included 1,554 military
personnel and 672 civilians. Letterman had become a professional teaching hospital with both
residency and internship programs. 9 It continued to play a vital role during the war in
A-2. Letterman's Buildings
By the end of 1900, the Army had spent $200,000 on the new general hospital. This
sum included not only the hospital proper but the important support facilities such as
laundry, bakery, power building, and refrigerator building, all to the north of the pavilion.
East of the wards, in a north-south line by 1908, five sets of officers' quarters (1000-1004)
graced the edge of an open area. Colonial Revival in style, the 2/2 story, wood frame
buildings had narrow weatherboard siding and gable roofs with cross gables which had
molded cornices with dentril courses. Quarters 1000, traditionally occupied by Letterman's
commanding officer, is the fourth general's quarters within the military reservation. The
building had eighteen rooms excluding the front porch which was enclosed in 1930. 10
Construction continued through the years with the addition of wards, clinics, chapel, nurses'
quarters, and other facilities. Thompson Hall, at the southwest corner of the hospital complex,
constructed as nurses' quarters, consisted of six wings. Two of these were demolished in 1941.
The remaining four, all reinforced concrete became part of the hall at different times: 1022 in
8. File 0-1, Master Plans, DEH, PSF; Maj. Gen. J.W. Schwartz, October 14, 1960, to the Commanding Officer,
PSF, in RG 112, NA-San Francisco; General Reference and Research branch, U.S. Army Medical Service, "A brief
history of Letterman General Hospital" (Washington, 1962).
9. "Facts on Letterman General Hospital," PSF Lands, RG 338, NA-San Francisco; Mudgett, "A Brief History,"
10. LGH, "Quarters 1000," RG 112, NA-San Francisco Branch. Quarters 1000 and 1001 were built in 1902; the
other three, in 1908. All but 1000 were duplexes.
57. A surviving portion of the original covered corridor that joined all the buildings of the original,
rectangular, pavilion-type hospital as it was built in 1899. E. Thompson, 1991
1915; 1014 in 1916; 1026 in 1930, and 1020 in 1931. The present front entrance dates from
When the United States became involved in World War I, Letterman expanded greatly with
the construction of "East Hospital," east of officers' row. As first constructed it contained
nineteen 40-man wards, a psychopathic ward, five barracks for staff, and a nurses' dorm. (By
the end of World War II this area contained over thirty wood frame, one- and two-story
buildings, all in the 1100 series.) These buildings were razed in the 1960s in order to construct
the new Letterman Army Medical Center.
File E-2, Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
Letterman's annual report for 1922 stated that the hospital then had fifty-six permanent (i.e.,
concrete) buildings and twenty-nine temporary (i.e., wood frame) structures. The
commanding officer, Col. Wallace De Witt, wrote in 1929 that "the frame and stucco buildings
are old and, with the exception of the Officers' Quarters ... do not meet modern
requirements and constitute a potential fire hazard." He urged that concrete structures replace
them all. 12
Miscellaneous items concerning the Letterman buildings include its fire station (1149).
Constructed in 1943 for the protection of the wooden buildings in the East Hospital Area, it
closed down in 1946. At that time the firemen's quarters became much needed quarters for
transient officers. Another transient officers' quarters became available sometime in the 1960s
when the chief nurse moved out of her suite in Thompson Hall. After World War II
Letterman building 1062 became a motion picture theater. After it was demolished, the Jack
W. Schwarz Theater (1105) amply replaced it. 13
A 1947 report stated that the number of female officers stationed at Letterman amounted to
242, while only 156 rooms were available to them at the hospital. Although the Army leased
another forty-five rooms in the city, a severe shortage remained. The problem persisted. A
1960 report stated that 230 married officers worked at the hospital. Housing existed for less
than thirty percent. During World War II, Letterman took over Area A at the east end of
lower Presidio (which had housed some prisoners of war up until then). These some thirty-
five buildings, in the 200 series, served a variety of purposes: quarters for the hospital train
section, dispensary, mess halls, Red Cross recreation, noncommissioned officers' club,
patients' recreation facilities, barracks for hospital corps enlisted men, ambulatory patients,
convalescent patients, and so forth. In 1957 five of these buildings (212, 213, 213x, 214, and
214x) became WAC barracks. 14
In 1956 Letterman requested use of the Presidio's former cavalry stables 668 for use as its
animal laboratory - dogs, guinea pigs, rats, .mice, etc. The Presidio was agreeable and
12. LGH, Annual Report for 1922; Col. Wallace De Witt, February 25, 1929, to the Surgeon General, both in
AG 112, NA-San Francisco Branch. The Army by this time interpreted brick, masonry, and concrete construction
as permanent in nature, and wood or balloon-frame construction to be temporary. Yet at the time they were built,
Letterman's officers' quarters, 1000 through 1004, were intended as permanent buildings and they still served
ninety years later.
13. Col. A.H. Schwichtenberg, November 1, 1948, to the commanding general, LGH; Col. James H. Mackin,
October 9, 1965 to Colonel Boeckman, both in RG 112, NA-San Francisco Branch.
14. Maj. Earle A. Paxon, February 16, 1947, to the Surgeon General; "Designation of Buildings in Debarkation
Hospital Area," 1948; and Col. R.J. Kamish, December 16, 1960, to the commanding general, LGH, all in RG 112,
Letterman spent $12,600 rehabilitating the structure. 15 A year later, the hospital's
landscaping efforts became the subject of a report. It said that trees of various species had
been planted extensively. Acacias, planted at regular spaces, grew along the streets east of the
main hospital. Besides nineteen acres of lawn, numerous shrubs, hedges, flower borders, and
vines grew around the buildings. A greenhouse provided flowers for the hospital. 16
Beginning in 1972, reports emerged noting the demolition of "temporary" buildings both at
the hospital and in the lower Presidio, including some of the early-day buildings (1017, 1018,
and 1019). That year a plan called for the elimination of all older buildings. By 1976 all of the
west half of the original quadrangle had disappeared and in their place there arose modern
barracks and administrative facilities for enlisted women. 17
Nonetheless, Letterman's swimming pool (1151) and gymnasium (1152) continued to function.
Other surviving Letterman structures included:
Bacteriology laboratory (1006). Built in 1915, this two-story Colonial/Mediterranean-
Style concrete building with cream-colored walls and tiled roof, has deteriorated
Ward (1007), a wood frame structure, rectangular in plan, with hip and gable roof,
dates from 1901, thus making it a survivor from Letterman's earliest days. Later, it
served as a nurses' quarters.
Wards (1008 and 1009). These two-story concrete structures, similar to 1006 above,
were constructed in 1930 and 1931.
Three buildings, appearing as one, were: ward (1012) built in 1931, ward (1013) built
in 1933, and building 1014, built in 1933 and now an outpatient clinic. They were
Colonial /Mediterranean in style with cream-colored walls and red-tiled, hipped roofs.
Structure 1014 has an arcaded porte cochere surmounted with a wrought iron railing.
Administration building (1016). This long, rectangular, wood frame building is the
oldest survivor of Letterman General Hospital, having been built in 1899. Short wings
15. Lt. Col. Louis E. , September 11, 1956, to CO, PSF, RG 112, NA-San Francisco. It is possible that the
dog kennels (666) were constructed at this time.
16. "Analysis of Existing Facilities," LGH, August 19, 1957, RG 112, NA-San Francisco.
17. Files 1-4 and 0-5, Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
project at either end of the front. A one-story, enclosed corridor and an entrance
portico in the Modern style fill the front U, compromising the building's Utilitarian
The Letterman powerhouse and steamplant (1040), built in 1900 with brick, and
Utilitarian in style is another survivor from the beginning. A concrete second story has
been added to the building.
A disinfecting plant (1047), built in 1914 and converted to a laundry in 1937, was a
1 '/2-story, concrete structure built in a Craftsman style but influenced by the
Mediterranean Revival style. The tiled roof was embellished with rows of decorative
wooden brackets and the walls have large windows.
A bakery (1049) built in 1917, later became a twenty-bed ward.
Psychiatric ward (1050), built in 1918, possessed a Utilitarian/Mediterranean Revival
style, as did the attached detention ward (1051), built in 1909. Both concrete buildings
had three stories with metal bars on the windows.
The former animal house (1056), built in 1910; combustible storage building (1059), one
story, concrete, and built in 1915; medical and surgical warehouse (1060), built in 1916;
quartermaster shop (1062), built in 1922; and a procurement-contracting building
(1065), built in 1919, were all concrete structures built in a Utilitarian style.
The U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command selected Letterman for the
establishment of the Western Medical Research Laboratory on September 1, 1966. Established
in five small buildings it researched in the fields of tropical medicine, nutrition, surgery and
blood replacement, pathology, and psychiatry. This organization became the Letterman Army
Institute of Research (LAIR) in 1973 and occupied a new complex of four interconnected
buildings: administrative support, laboratory research, and research support, all constructed
between 1973 and 1977, and chemical storage, built ca. 1982. These structures vary from one
to four stories. Numbered 1110, LAIR is a separate command from the general hospital and,
like it, is supported by the Presidio of San Francisco by means of an inter-service support
agreement. Primary research in 1990 was in the fields of artificial blood, laser, and
18. File F-3, Master Plans, DEH, PSF; Herbert A. Gale, "Reference History of the Presidio of San Francisco,
California," (1973), p. 19; Anon, "History of Major Tenants - Presidio of San Francisco," n.d. Copy in Presidio Army
Museum; "Meeting Record, "Letterman Army Medical Center, January 3, 1990, Files, GGNRA.
The hospital itself acquired a new edifice in May 1968. The new building, located to the
southeast of the original structures, had facilities for 550 beds. Constructed of reinforced
concrete frame and precast concrete panels, the building's three-story base contained clinical
facilities; while nursing facilities occupied the seven-story tower above. The structure included
178 doctors' offices, 100 examining rooms, seven operating rooms, nine elevators, and an
obstetrical unit. Cost - $14.8 million. 19
In 1990 Letterman Army Medical Center stated its mission as being fivefold: medical support
for the Army, graduate medical education and technical training, tertiary care for military
retirees, support in civilian disasters, and coordination of regional health care. The hospital
maintained 340 beds with the capacity to expand to 817 in an emergency. In addition, it
serviced 1,500 outpatient visitors per day. The staff in 1990 consisted of 1,160 military
personnel and 700 civilians. Most patients were retired military, rather than active duty
B. Crissy Field
Col. Henry H. Arnold, one of the Army's first pilots, arrived at San Francisco in May
1919 to become the first Air Service officer assigned to the staff of the Western Department.
By November he observed that aircraft were landing at the west end of lower Presidio which
had been filled by dredging for the 1915 international exposition. By the summer of 1920 the
landing strip had become known as Crissy Field, although orders formally naming it have
not been found. Named in honor of Maj. Dana Crissy who had been killed in 1919 in a
transcontinental air race that had originated at San Francisco, the field was turned over to the
Air Service on June 24, 1921, upon completion of its buildings and other facilities. It became
the first and only Air Service Coast Defense Station on the West Coast, its principal mission
being to assist the Coast Artillery in the defense of San Francisco Bay.
The first landing strip, or runway, consisted of a short stretch of ground running from
hangars at the west end of the field eastward 2,000 feet. A thin layer of clay over the sandy
ground formed the surface of the strip. By June 1925 the runway had reached a length of
3,300 feet through leveling, grading, and additional clay surface. A year later the Army added
another 1,000 feet to the runway and regraded and resurfaced the entire strip. Finally, in 1927
work resumed resulting in the runway having the overall dimensions of 5,200 feet in length
and approximately 400 feet in width. In 1934, two years before Crissy was abandoned, a
19. File 0-1, Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
20. "Meeting Record," Letterman Army Medical Center, January 3, 1990, Files, GGNRA.
contractor completed a "landing mat" measuring 1,000 feet in length and 200 feet wide. Seven
inches of crushed rock formed the base, a coat of rolled and packed "leveling" rock covered
the base, and a topping of natural rock asphalt completed the work.
After Crissy Field closed, Works Progress Administration funds became available to make
certain improvements at the field. A report in 1938 stated that 400,000 square feet of landing
runway had been resurfaced. Light planes used the runway in World War II. Then, in the late
fifties the installation reopened as Crissy Army Airfield to both light planes and helicopters.
In 1974 use of the airfield was restricted to helicopters only. The date the present concrete
runway was laid down has not been determined with certainty. It may have been 1938 or in
1960 when the runway was extended. 21
Most of the administrative and industrial buildings completed in 1921 stood at the west end
of the landing strip. The enlisted barracks (650), a reinforced concrete, two-story, H-plan
building with a raised basement story had a recess porch or corridor over an arcaded base
on the elevation inside the court. The gable-ends of the roof, faced with curved or scrolled
moldings had a circular opening in the middle. All these features contributed to a Mission
Revival style. Later named Stilwell Hall, the building housed a variety of activities after the
Air Service departed.
The administrative building (651) stood nearby. Its main floor contained the offices of the
commanding officer of the field, while the department's Air Service officer, commencing with
Colonel Arnold, occupied the second floor. Craftsman/Mediterranean Revival in style, the
building combined the light-colored stucco and tile roof with Classical and Craftsman details.
Hollow tile formed the walls. After the Air Service departed, the commander of the Presidio
and the 30th Infantry Regiment established his headquarters in this structure.
The field's small guardhouse, 31 feet by 37 feet, stood at the entrance to the field on the south
side of Crissy Field Avenue. It displayed an eclectic style combining the light-colored walls
and tile roof of Mediterranean Revival with such Classic elements as the entrance portico and
door with round arch and fan-shaped transom window. Crissy Field's flagstaff stood in front
of this building.
Farther to the west stood a collection of structures including a garage, hangars, shops, and
maintenance facilities. The garage (920), a long, one-story, gable-roofed building in a
21. William Mooser, Jr. "Report on Progress of the Works Program in San Francisco, January 1938;" Col. James
H. Makin, July 29, 1965, Memo for Record, Letterman General Hospital, RG 112, NA-San Francisco.
Utilitarian style, later became a warehouse. Beyond it stood a group of industrial buildings
today labeled "Maintenance Shops." Most of these structures had rectangular plans with a
central, gable-roofed section raised above side sections with shed-roofs, often called a basilica
Hangars (926 and 937), two-story, steel frame. Land planes used one hangar,
seaplanes, the other.
Gas pump house (929).
Hose reel house (930).
Dope shop and boiler rooms (933), steel frame. Later the building became carpenter
and paint shops.
Motor test building (934), two-story, reinforced concrete.
Aero storehouse (935), also two-story, reinforced concrete.
Seaplane ramp, at the harbor's edge.
The living quarters for Crissy Field, also completed in 1921, stood on the bluff south of the
field, along Lincoln Boulevard. Bachelor Officers' Quarters (951), 2/2 stories, wood frame,
stuccoed hollow tile walls possessed a sub-style of Colonial Revival called Southern Colonial
because of the two-story portico with a triangular pediment and Tuscan columns, and
Classically a detailed entrance flanked by round-arched windows with fanlights. The building
also reflected the Mediterranean Revival style with its use of light-colored walls and a tile
roof. In 1990 it served as an enlisted personnel guest house.
The twelve officers' quarters (952-964) proved to be too small when first built. The Air Service
glassed in the front porch and added a bedroom to the rear of each set in 1922, and a
servant's room in 1928. Each of the two-story residences had a rectangular plan, a one-story
porch, and a tiled and gabled roof. They were simplified Colonial/Mediterranean Revival in
style. To the west of these quarters Crissy Field's radio receiving station had stuccoed,
hollow-tile walls. Its one story measured 32 feet by 47 feet. After World War II this structure
became an officer's quarters.
58. Crissy Field. The nearer structure was the airfield's administrative building. "Hap" Arnold, later the first
commanding general of the United States Air Force, had his offices on the second floor. Beyond it stands
the Mission Revival-styled enlisted men's barracks. E. Thompson, 1991
In December 1921, the U.S. Air Mail Service received permission to land at Crissy Field. It
constructed a small wooden hangar (640) east of the enlisted barracks. In 1928 it became an
ROTC barracks and its walls were covered with corrugated iron. Today it serves as a
In 1922 and 1923 Crissy Field constructed two additional steel-frame hangars between the air
mail building and the barracks. While originally conceived as storehouses for air service
material, they soon became classrooms, drill hall, and gymnasium for Army Reserve units
during their weekend and annual training. By 1928 the two had been joined together by a
small office building. Their roofs displayed the words CRISSY FIELD in large letters. Today,
identified as one building (643), the long, rectangular structure has a parapeted gable roof and
bays divided by shallow piers. The style is simplified Mission Revival.
59. Crissy Field. Officers' quarters, erected on the bluff behind the flying field in 1921. E. Thompson, 1991
60. Crissy Field. Bachelor officers' quarters also constructed in 1921. E. Thompson, 1991
Because of the limited space available for landings and takeoffs, the dangerous wind currents,
and the forthcoming construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Air Service (Army Air Corps
after 1926) abandoned Crissy Field on June 23, 1936. During its fifteen years of operation, it
had served the Army well: U.S. Air Mail Service, aerial forest fire patrol, aerial photographic
assignments, participation in community activities, training army reservists, stimulating an
interest in aviation, and, above all, cooperating with ground and coastal units of the Army
in the defense of San Francisco Bay. Hamilton Field near Novato in Marin County about
twenty miles north of the Presidio replaced Crissy Field, opening in 1936.
C. U.S. Coast Guard Station Fort Point
Even before the Congress authorized the establishment of a Life Saving Service in
1878, the Secretary of the Treasury had constructed such a station at San Francisco's Golden
Gate Park the year before. The new Service's Twelfth District, i.e., the West Coast, prepared
plans for two additional stations, near the Presidio's Fort Point and at Point Reyes, in 1886.
In January 1888 Secretary of War W.C. Endicott granted a revocable license to Secretary of
Treasury Charles S. Fairchild to erect a station on the lower Presidio. On November 2, J.W.
Meryman, the Life Saving Service's Pacific Coast superintendent of construction, announced
that he had received the plans and specifications for a dwelling house for keeper and crew
for each of the two stations. 22
James H. Coster of Baltimore, Maryland, won the construction contract in February 1889 with
a bid of $11,000 and a promise to complete the work by September 1, 1889. An inspector
visited the site on October 8 and found the buildings essentially completed but work had not
started on the launchway. Finally, on February 14, 1890, the superintendent of construction
announced completion of the station. A separate contract, won by L.D. Frichette of San
Francisco, called for a fence on three sides of the station - 915 feet of pickets and 140 feet of
barbed wire. The Secretary of War gave permission for a lookout tower in March 1891. A few
years later an army officer noted that the twenty-foot, frame tower stood 123 yards in front
of gun 3, Battery Lancaster. 23
22. Meryman, November 2, 1888, to S.J. Kimball, Life Saving Service, hereinafter cited as LSS, Letters
Received, RG 26, NA; Anna Coxe Toogood, Historic Resource Study, A Civil History, Golden Gate National Recreation
Area (Denver: National Park Service, n.d.), pp. 275-277.
23. [Uleg.], LSS, 12th District, October 8, 1889 to Meryman; Capt. J.W. White, Superintendent of Instruction,
LSS, to General Superintendent Sumner I. Kimball, LSS, both in Records of USCG, 12th District, Alameda, CA;
"Specifications for Fence for Fort Point" LSS, ca. January 1890, Records of the USCG, RG 26, NA; "Supplement to
Mimeograph No. 43, Confidential," General Correspondence 1894-1923, OCE, RG 77, NA.
In 1914 the U.S. Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the life saving stations and this
station then became known as the Fort Point Coast Guard Station and it was numbered 323.
From a document called Assistance Reports one obtains a picture of the variety of tasks that
came Fort Point's way:
October 20, 1917. Picked up and towed a becalmed vessel that was drifting to sea.
September 1, 1919. Virginia, a hydroplane fell into the water from a height of 100 feet.
Towed plane ashore. Hull and wings a total loss.
February 22, 1921. A man jumped into bay from a moving airplane. Took him aboard
and landed him on shore.
March 2, 1922. Boy fell over a high cliff. When found by station crew he was bleeding
profusely and incoming tide was washing over him.
March 17, 1922. Carried sick lighthouse keeper from the Farallone Islands to station
and placed him in care of Marine Hospital attendants.
September 1923. Stood by while the Seal Rocks swimming races were held.
April 19, 1924. Patrolled entrance of San Francisco Bay to prevent smuggling of liquor.
March 19, 1925. Recovered body of a male bather and attempted resuscitation.
April 7, 1925. Disposed of a dead horse that was on the rocks near Cliff House.
September 17, 1925. Two male bathers caught in undertow and drowned.
March 20, 1927. Rescued man who attempted to cross the Golden Gate in an air-
inflated suit and was swept out to sea.
December 6, 1929. Stood by while a glider, in tow of plane, crossed Golden Gate.
Glider crashed on Crissy Field, killing occupant.
September 28, 1933. Dragged for body of man whose clothing was found with a note
to his wife. 24
In 1914 work began on the construction of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition
grounds in the lower Presidio. The Fort Point Station became an obstacle to the exposition
company's plans for it wished to construct a planked auto racetrack that would involve that
same site. With everyone's agreement the company moved the station in November 700 feet
west to its present location. It cost the company $19,000 to install a new steel boat launchway
at the new site. 25
An army officer, writing in 1919, brought an early notice to the existence of a large men's
quarters at the station. He said it measured about fifty-five feet square and contained two
stories, adding there were also quarters for the "keeper" and several other small buildings. 26
By 1920, with the development of Crissy Field adjacent to the station, the Air Service began
a campaign to have the station moved once again. Aircraft taking off from the field (because
of the prevailing wind, planes had to land and take off from east to west) had either to gain
altitude to get over the Fort Point bluff, 160 feet high, or make a right turn over the station
buildings. In many instances the aircraft barely cleared the buildings. Estimated cost of
moving the station east to the vicinity of the Presidio wharf, $73,000. Once again the Coast
Guard was willing to move, but it had no funds for such. Nor was Congress willing to supply
the funds. The station stayed; the aircraft remained. 27
In 1940 the Army discovered that it had not issued a permit to the Coast Guard station when
it moved in 1914. Hasty paper work, that included the station's metes and bounds, made
everything legal on August 17, 1940. 28
In 1952 the station felt the necessity to expand its facilities. Demands on its services had
greatly increased with the disestablishment of both the Golden Gate and Point Bonita stations.
It considered that an additional area 150 feet wide and extending from Marina Drive to the
24. U.S. Coast Guard Assistance Reports, Fort Point Station 323, Roll 17, Microfilm 919, NA.
25. Todd, The Story of the Exposition, 1:285.
26. Lt. H.A. Halverson, October 8, 1919, to Department Air Service Officer, PSF, Project Files, Airfields, Army
Air Force, RG 18, NA.
27. Brig. Gen. R.C. Marshall, Washington, May 10, 1920, to Director of Operations, Project Files, Army Air
Force, RG 18, NA.
28. Col. R.L. Eichelberger, PSF, June 14, 1940, to CG, Ninth Corps Area, Records of USCG, Real Property
Branch, Twelfth CG District, Alameda, CA.
bay would be sufficient space for new storage and shop facilities. The Army seems to have
granted the request; a 1957 site plan showed a storage building to the east of the station
building: from west to east - 19.4 commander's garage, 19.3 commander's residence, 19.9
station building with boat room, 19.1 storage building, 19.15 shop building, and an
unnumbered ammunition storage. The marine railroad ran from three boat tracks within the
station building and converging into a single track down into the water. A buoy shack with
a latrine, 19.8 stood on the end of the pier. The plan noted that the three-story station
building had a fourth story lookout. Inside the men maintained a little museum that
contained nameplates, oars, and life rings from local wrecks. 29
The Presidio's Star Presidian ran an article on the station on September 30, 1963. It noted that
the crew maintained two 40-foot speedboats and two 36-foot motor lifeboats. They supplied
logistical support for the Mile Rock Light Station, Point Blunt Light Station on Angel Island,
and the Alcatraz Light Station. A nasty task was recovering suicides who jumped from the
Golden Gate Bridge. 30
In August 1970, the Army gave permission to the Coast Guard to construct a "hangar" at the
station for housing two experimental air cushion vehicles (ACVs or "Hovercraft"). This permit
also involved additional pavement for parking, an approach ramp, flood lights, and the
conversion of the paint storage building into an electronics shop. By 1972 the metal hangar
occupied a site on the east side of the station. A survey report gave a capsule of the station:
Mission: boating safety, search and rescue, and aids to navigation; to provide one
motor lifeboat and one air cushion vehicle twenty-four hours a day, seven days a
week in support of Coast Guard missions.
Staffing: three (usually only one) officer and twenty-five men.
Facilities: two 44-foot motor lifeboats, two air cushion vehicles, and two highway
29. H.C. Perkins, Chief of Staff, USCG, January 2, 1952, to CG, Sixth U.S. Army, Records of USCG, Real
Property Branch, Twelfth CG District, Alameda, CA; File L-2, Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
30. Star Presidian, September 20, 1963.
61. Fort Point Coast Guard Station. The commander's residence, first constructed a short distance away in
1889 and moved to present site in 1914. E. Thompson, 1991
62. Fort Point Coast Guard Station, 1991. E. Thompson
SAN FRANCISCO BAY
FORT POINT COAST GUARD STATION
PRESIDIO OF o/.N FR A)HCI SCO, CALIFORNIA
ii ^E P 60
63. Map, Fort Point Coast Guard Station.
Buildings: boathouse SF 19, electrical repair shop SF 15, engineer "mtl" shops CGI,
crew berth/administration office CG2, commander's residence CG3, commander's
garage CG4, ACV hangar CG6, and standby generator room CG10. 31
The station came under attack briefly in 1973 when a newspaper reporter wrote an article,
"Auto Rules on Scenic Beach," which was not a set of instructions for beach driving, but autos
over people. He noted that the Coast Guard maintained its buildings flawlessly but tolerated
a broken down motor pool (the enlisted men's parking lot) and junk on the beach in front of
the station. The commander quieted the situation by cleaning up the beach (so that the Army
could remove the trash) and making the shore more accessible to the public. 32
A year later the Coast Guard proposed removing the remaining portions of the 1914 marine
railway that had deteriorated greatly and had not been used since 1959. Following an
inspection, California's historic preservation officer, William Penn Mott, Jr., agreed that
removal would have no adverse effect. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
When the station's permit came up for renewal in 1977, the changing times were marked by
the Army Corps of Engineers preparing an "Environmental Impact Assessment." It noted that
the station consisted of 3.11 acres of land and 1.8 acres of tide and submerged land. Its
mission remained much the same: search and rescue operations, maintenance of short range
aids to navigation, and recreational boat safety, in and around San Francisco Bay, the bay
entrance, and the coastal waters between Bodega Bay and Monterey. The Dutch Colonial
Revival style buildings now consisted of: main building 8,100 square feet, garage/shop
building 1,440 square feet, boatswain's locker 500 square feet, two-story house 2,100 square
feet, former ACV hangar 5,100 square feet, and wooden catwalk 315-foot with a 400 square
foot boathouse. The assessment noted that public access had been provided to the beach via
the Golden Gate Promenade. 34
31. Installation Utilization Survey Report, July 13, 1972; Col. John L. Fellows, PSF, August 17, 1970, to
Commander, Twelfth CG District, both in Records of the USCG, Real Property Branch, Twelfth CG District,
Alameda, CA. The Coast Guard gave up the air cushion boats, which could do seventy knots, in 1973.
32. San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle, January 21, 1973.
33. William Penn Mott, Jr., August 26, 1974, to Lt. Comdr. E.G. O'Keefe, USCG, Records of USCG, Real
Property Branch, Twelfth CG District, Alameda, CA.
34. "Environmental Impact Assessment," June 14, 1977, Records of USCG, Real Property Branch, Twelfth CG
District, Alameda, CA. The assessment erroneously reported that the station had been listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.
In 1984 the U.S. Coast Guard, by then within the U.S. Department of Transportation, informed
the Army Engineers that it was designing an offshore breakwater and a new pier for the Fort
Point station. It hoped to complete the project by the end of June 1987. Because of this
sizeable investment, it asked the Army if the revocable permit could be extended for longer
than the usual five years. But the future began to take over the present. After much
negotiation among the Army, Coast Guard, and National Park Service, the decision was
reached that U.S. Coast Guard Station 323 would move to East Fort Baker in Marin County
and build a new complex of buldings there. The decision resulted in a detailed real property
inventory in 1986:
CG2, station house, wood frame, pre-1915[!], four stories, administration, mess,
barracks, and gallery. In the past it had contained a boathouse. Major rehabilitation
CG3, officer's quarters, wood frame, ca. 1890, two stories, residence. Recent
CG4, officer's garage, wood frame, ca. 1890, one story. Had once been a boathouse.
CG6, ACV hangar, metal frame, 1970, one story, now engineering shop, tool crib,
workshop, and office, condition good.
CGI, carpenter shop, wood frame, ca. 1930s, one-story, carpenter and hobby shops.
CG15, paint locker, wood frame, ca. 1930s, one-story, now storage, condition fair.
CG10, emergency generator building, wood frame, one story, condition fair.
CG19, boat house, access pier, wood deck and timber piles, condition bad.
CG20, small boat dock, wood deck and timber piles, mooring for two-three boats,
CG12, seawall bulkhead, concrete 1935, shore portion fair.
File P-4, Master Plans, DEH, PSF; Commander, Twelfth CG District, August 31, 1984, to CO, Sacramento
District, Army Corps of Engineers, Records of USCG, Real Property Branch, Twelfth CG district, Alameda, CA.
Once the announcement of the transfer became public, a local tug-of-war developed. The
Army announced that it wanted the station's buildings for guest quarters and warehousing.
The officer's residence with its four bedrooms would be ideal for a colonel or a major. The
six bedrooms and six bathrooms on the second floor of the station building would make great
bachelor officers' quarters, while the six large rooms, without latrines, on the main floor could
be BOQs for "geographical bachelors." The facilities were in excellent shape, but a little remote
from the main post. Meanwhile, the National Park Service had concluded that the station
should become a part of the national recreation area and then could be leased to the Army.
The future would take care of both points of view. 36
On April 18, 1990, the Officer in Charge invited the public to attend the establishment
ceremony for the new U.S. Coast Guard Station Golden Gate, East Fort Baker. The Officer in
Charge, however, continued to live in the quarters at the Fort Point Station, while the
boathouse became a park rangers' dormitory.
D. San Francisco National Cemetery
The first American soldier's death at the Presidio of San Francisco, according to the
post returns, occurred in 1848 when an unnamed soldier was laid to rest. The Army located
this first cemetery near the laundresses' quarters. By 1854 another permanent site had been
established for the graveyard, which site became a national cemetery in 1884. In 1866 a
lieutenant complained that he could find no record of internment at the post and only a few
of the graves had headboards. He wrote that the Civil War had caused turmoil as far as
records were concerned. Although the Presidio no longer used the cemetery near the
laundresses' quarters, he he did not think those remains should be moved to the new
Another lieutenant prepared a list of interments at the Presidio in 1879. He counted a total
of 144 soldiers, women, and children who had been buried since 1854. 38 Then, in 1883 the
post quartermaster confessed that he found the past system of numbering the graves most
confusing but he was attempting to make some order out of it. Perhaps because of his efforts
36. File P-4, Master Plans, DEH, PSF; San Francisco Chronicle, June 2, 1986.
37. Lt. Gales Ramsay, June 16, 1866, to QMG, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA. Eventually all remains discovered
on the reservation were moved to the national cemetery, the unknown remains being buried in the plot for the
38. Lt. G.L. Anderson, PSF, July 18, 1879, to QMG, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
a list of interments he prepared in 1885 differed completely from the 1879 listing. He showed
181 burials. 39
In 1884 Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln directed the War Department to issue General
Orders 133 that converted the post cemetery to the San Francisco National Cemetery,
encompassing nine and one-half acres, the first such cemetery on the West Coast. A later
account stated that the cemetery had 231 interments on that date. The Army began collecting
remains, many unknown, from abandoned western posts and battlefields and brought them
to the Presidio. From then until June 7, 1930, the Office of the Quartermaster General
controlled the operation and maintenance of the cemetery, on which date the commanding
general, Ninth Corps Area assumed the responsibilities. The national cemetery grew steadily
in size in the years following its establishment:
1896, 6.0 acres added (New Addition)
1919, 3.5 acres added (Section A)
1924, 2.034 acres added (Section B)
1928, 2.034 acres added (Section C)
1932, 5.124 acres added (Sections D and E)
By 1932 the cemetery had grown to 28.34 acres. 40
Major Harts' 1907 report on the beautification of the Presidio recorded that a total of 5,367
bodies had been buried in 5,281 graves. He predicted that the 15'/2 acres would be full in 4'/2
years. Harts considered the location of the cemetery to be unfortunate and he did not favor
an extension in size. But if it were extended, he thought it should be toward the southwest,
which eventually came to be. 41
Although changed many times because of expansions, stone or concrete walls protected the
cemetery on the east, south, and west. Iron fencing and gates guarded the north side's main
entrance. The 1904 outline description stated that the cemetery had a V/z story, brick
39. Lt. Clemont L. Best, memorandum, March 31, 1883, Miscellaneous Fortifications File, RG 776, Division
of Cartography, NA; and Best, March 31, 1885, to Department of California, CCF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
40. File R-2 "Military Reservations, California," War Department, 1940, Master Plans, DEH, PSF; O.W. Degen,
"The San Francisco National Cemetery," (typescript, ca. 1938); Office of the Judge Advocate General, "Contracts
and Reservations," July 22, 1935. In 1956 the Army seriously considered adding twenty-five more acres, then
decided against the idea.
41. Maj. , Depot QM, Statement of Funds, San Francisco National Cemetery, General Correspondence,
1890-1914, OQMG, RG 92, NA; Harts, Report, 1907.
residence, outhouse, and a storehouse. A photograph taken in the 1920s showed the brick
Victorian house or lodge as being L-shaped and having gable roofs with cross gables and a
one-story veranda. The quartermaster recommended in 1926 that this house be remodeled to
conform to the general scheme in the area, i.e., tile roofing and stucco walls, that a concrete
stable replace the wood frame one, and that a concrete rest room be constructed. These
changes eventually came about making a marked difference in the appearance of the
The cemetery superintendent, Charles C. Church, who did not get along well with
quartermaster officers, wrote in 1928 that the cemetery then contained 8,937 known dead and
510 unknown. Only one Confederate veteran was known to be included, Robert Creighton,
and his grave marker identified him as a chief clerk, Quartermaster Department. At that time
only two monuments had been placed, the Pacific Garrison Memorial of the Regular Army
and Navy Union; and the George H. Thomas Post, Grand Army of the Republic. The
following year saw landscape changes with the removal of eucalyptus and cypress trees from
a new addition, and resetting the 422-foot-long iron picket fence along the north side. The
iron main gates were taken down and replaced at the new western entrance.
Capt. J.R.R. Hannoy, OMC, reported in 1930 that he had supervised the building changes
recommended earlier: alteration of the lodge (151) so as to change it from a two-story to a
one-story building, "Spanish Mission style," and construction of a one-story comfort station
(152) and a garage and tool house (153), both of hollow tile, tile roof, and stucco exterior. 44
A pathologist examined the cemetery's vegetation in 1931 noting that most trees were
Monterey cypresses and probably planted when the area was still a post cemetery. At any
rate he judged them to be in good condition. Not so the twelve deciduous oaks nor the
viburnums which may have been unsuited to the climate. A large number of shrubs and
young trees planted in the cemetery's front section in 1929 were doing quite well. He found
the graves themselves in poor condition - dead grass, weeds, and insufficient water. He
recommended either hiring more help or installing a stationary sprinkling system. In any case
an experienced gardener should be employed. 45
42. Col. L.H. Bash, Fort Mason, September 17, 1926 to QMG, GCGF, OQMG 1922-1935, RG 92, NA.
43. Charles C. Church, November 26, 1928, to QM Supply Officer, Fort Mason; Capt. C.W. Haney, QMC,
October 25, 1929, Completion Report, both in GCGF 1922-1935, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
44. Hannoy, January 15, 1930 to QMG, GCGF 1922-1935, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
45. Willis W. Wagener, September 18, 1931, Report on Vegetation, GCGF 1922-1935, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
Original Boundary, GO 133, Hd., Army, 1884, 9.5 acres
New Addition, GO 7, Hd., Army, 1896, 6 acres
Section A, Act of July 19, 1919, 3.5 acres
Section B, Approved by Sect, of War, 1924, 2.034 acres
Section C, Approved by Sect, of War, 1928, 2.034 acres
Sections D and E, Approved by Sect, of War, 1932, 5.124 acres
The new iron gates for the main entrance arrived in 1931. Colonel Hannoy said they were
well constructed and an appropriate ornament to the place. The public too commented
favorably on them. Indiana limestone formed the gate posts and walls; cut limestone, the urns
and plaques. The gates, made of genuine wrought iron, displayed ornamentation representing
branches of the military. The two contracts, one with T.B. Goodwin (stone) and one with
Anchor Post Fence Company (metal) cost the government a total of $7,350. 4
The American War Mothers of San Francisco received permission to erect their own
monument in the national cemetery in 1934. That same year the Quartermaster General gave
permission for moving the Lincoln Memorial Tablet from a wall of the lodge and placing it
on the front of the rostrum in the memorial area. One other monument in 1934, that of the
Unknown Soldier, a large rough-hewn block of granite, marked the burial site of 517
unknowns gathered from throughout the cemetery.
A strange and unusual burial took place at the national cemetery in 1936 when the remains
of seven American Naval personnel arrived from China and were buried "with as little
publicity as possible." They had died many years earlier, between 1872 and 1895. Instructions
came down not to talk to the press and, because so much time had passed, no effort was
made to contact the next of kin. 48
An inspector in 1939 brought the number of burials to 16,918 known and 510 unknown. Space
remained for 1,759. During the past year a concrete wall had been constructed along the south
end of the cemetery. The furor of World War II caused the removal of the national cemetery's
war relics: four trench mortars and three field pieces. The salvage officer extracted a little over
fifteen tons of scrap metal from them. A tremendous storm hit in 1943, ripping out 150-foot
trees and damaging buildings, water lines, sidewalks, and headstones. Toward the end of the
war labor became exceedingly scarce and the Army employed the Italian Service Unit (former
46. Colonel Hannoy, June 11, 1931, to the Adjutant General, GCGF 1922-1935, OQMG, RG 92, NA; and
Hannoy, Entrance Gates, Completion Reports, PSF, 1917-1919, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
47. File R-2, Historical Markers, Master Plans, DEH, PSF; QMG, April 17, 1934, and Lt. Col. J.H. Laubach,
January 10, 1934, to American Monumental Company, San Francisco, both in GCGF 1922-1925, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
48. P.S. Rossiter, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, U.S. Navy, February 20, 1936 to Commandant, Twelfth
Naval District, GCGF 1936, OQMG, RG 92, NA. It may have been the grave marker of one of these men that an
irate Spanish-American War veteran spotted one day. The Chinese characters on it caused him to write an angry
letter about letting foreigners into his cemetery.
prisoners of war) to help out. A lack of supervision caused these men to be somewhat relaxed
about the work. 49
Discussion about "moving" the San Francisco National Cemetery in 1955 caused a colonel to
write that national cemeteries were permanent installations and no thought existed of moving
this one. Besides a move would cost $5.6 million. He mentioned, too, that when the Bay
Bridge was being built the Navy removed its dead from its Yerba Buena Island cemetery and
brought the remains to the national cemetery. Then he threw in the comment that the Army
had buried the 230 bodies it had found on the Presidio, bodies believed to have been
Spaniards and Mexicans. 50
The San Francisco National Cemetery was closed, at least on paper, with the opening of the
Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno. Then, in 1973, President Richard M. Nixon
signed the National Cemeteries Act that transferred eighty-two of the eighty-four national
cemeteries, including San Francisco, from the Department of the Army to the Veterans
As of 1990, buildings in the national cemetery include the superintendent's residence (151),
built before 1900 and modified in 1929, the former mortuary chapel later converted to an
administrative office (150), the restroom (152), and the service building formerly a garage
(154). This group of small buildings with white walls and tiled roofs and with scrolled gables
and bulleye's windows exhibit the Mission Revival style.
E. Marine Hospital (U.S. Public Health Service Hospital)
1. The Hospital
In 1798 the U.S. Congress established "marine" hospitals free of costs for sick
and injured merchant seamen from all nations landing in American ports and placed the U.S.
Marine Hospital Service, under the Treasury Department, in charge of their administration.
The first marine hospital in San Francisco, built in 1853, stood on the waterfront at the
intersection of Spear and Harrison streets. Shaken by earthquakes this structure became
49. Supt. C. Keany, October 13, 1942, to the QM, Ninth Service Command, Fort Douglas, Utah; Capt. James
T. Jones, December 10, 1943; and Col. R.F. Bartz, June 9, 1945, to CG, Army Service Forces, GCGF 1935-1945,
OQMG, RG 92, NA.
50. Col. A.L. Bivens, QMC, August 30, 1955, to G-4, PSF, PSF Lands, RG 338, NA-San Francisco.
51. Col. G.W. Hinman, Jr., QMC, July 26, 1948, to the Department of State, GCGF 1948, OQMG, RG 92, NA;
File R-2, Master Plans, DEH, PSF.
unusable by the early 1870s. Congress then authorized the construction of a new hospital on
federal land in the vicinity of the city at a cost of $59,000. Treasury chose a site on Angel
Island only to be informed by the Army that the location was needed for harbor defenses. The
Army was agreeable, however, to Treasury's use of eighty-five acres in the southwest corner
of the Presidio of San Francisco west of Mountain Lake. 52
On January 24, 1874, Secretary of War William Belknap granted a revocable lease to Treasury
for the Presidio land and by 1875 the Marine Hospital, a collection of wood frame buildings,
stood on a terrace overlooking Mountain Lake. For several years the Army had leased acreage
in this same area to a civilian who grew vegetables on it and who, in return, supplied the
troops with part of his produce. The hospital continued this practice at first allowing the
lessee to cultivate 8.5 acres. Eventually the Army became concerned that the garden, which
had grown to forty acres, and the hospital stables threatened the purity of the Presidio's water
supply and asked the Hospital Surgeon to discontinue gardening. 53
In 1902 the Marine Hospital Service became the U.S. Public Health Service, still under
Treasury, but the old name of Marine Hospital remained in common usage. Five years later
Maj. William Harts, planning the Presidio's future, recommended that the hospital be
removed from the Presidio, perhaps to Angel Island. 54
By 1932 the hospital buildings, almost sixty years old, had become overcrowded and their
frame construction posed a constant fire hazard. Treasury concluded to tear down the
buildings and construct a reinforced concrete hospital building immediately to the west on
a terrace that overlooked the city. Three buildings from that first hospital survived the
change: senior enlisted men's quarters (1807), built in 1920; officer's quarters (1809), built in
1920; and officer's quarters (1810), built in 1915. The old hospital cemetery, in which no
interments had been made for many years, also remained north of the hospital proper.
Along with the new 1932 hospital building (1801), a maintenance facility, recreation center,
additional quarters, and laboratories comprised the new complex. A bewildering number of
52. Sacramento Engineer District, "Cultural Resources Inventory Update, Presidio of San Francisco" (1988)
pp. 95-96; "The Army at the Golden Gate," p. 76.
53. Ibid., p. 96-97; Daily Alia California, February 21, 1874, quoting Belknap.
54. Harts, Report, 1907, pp. 86-87. Public Law 69-744, dated March 3, 1927, returned the eighty-five acre of
land to the War Department but transferred thirty-five acres of the same land back to Treasury for hospital
purposes. This law contained a clause that the title would revert to the War Department whenever the tract ceased
to be of use for the marine hospital.
66. Marine Hospital. Main building, constructed in 1932. The two wings were more recent additions, 1952.
E. Thompson, 1991
67. Marine Hospital. Nurses' Residence. Built 1932. Later, army offices. E. Thompson
agency changes occurred during the following years. In 1939 the marine hospitals, then under
the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, became part of the Federal Security Agency.
It, in turn, was succeeded by Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) which then became the
Department of Health and Human Services (HSS).
The main hospital building received a major addition in 1952 when two large wings, added
to the front of the building, extended to the south, compromising the original structure's
historical integrity. On October 29, 1964, the Department of the Army transferred 1.99 acres
to the hospital in order to create more of a buffer zone to the "plague investigation laboratory"
that stood near residential structures on the Presidio itself.
The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare proposed to reduce the activities of the
Public Health Service in 1970 and it set the date of July 1973 for closing the San Francisco
hospital. At that time the hospital provided health care for merchant seamen, U.S. Coast
Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Native Americans, leprosy
patients, Southeast Asians, and still others. Although the hospital still averaged 425 inpatients
and 122,700 outpatients monthly, the occupancy rate was declining. Also, $13 million would
be required to bring the building up to code if it continued to function. On learning the news
of closure, the AFL-CIO Seafarers' International Union protested vigorously and there the
matter rested for the moment. 55
In 1974 the Presidio learned that HEW was contemplating excessing 7.5 acres of the hospital's
land. Alarmed, it quickly notified higher headquarters that it considered that acreage to be
part of the "Green Belt" open space and buffer zone within the Presidio complex.
Traditionally, it had always been an integral portion of the Presidio and it was a part of the
land that the Presidio and the City and County of San Francisco had both agreed would not
be developed. The storm blew over; the land remained green. 56
But time was running out. The federal government announced the closure of the hospital in
1981. Congressman Philip Burton immediately protested. The San Francisco Examiner ran a
headline "Burtons fight Reagan on hospital." The article continued saying that the now 242-
bed hospital had served merchant seaman since 1853 and there were still 4,600 admissions
and 150,000 outpatients yearly: merchant seaman, Department of Defense, Native Americans,
55. San Francisco Chronicle, December 17, 1970.
56. Commanding Officer, Presidio of San Francisco, October 4, 1974, to Commanding Officer, U.S. Forces
Commander, Fort McPherson, Georgia.
Indochinese refugees, and sufferers from Hansen disease. 57 But the federal government's
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (PL 97-35) terminated medical benefits for
merchant seamen and it provided for the closure or transfer of all Public Health Service
hospitals and clinics. On November 13, 1981, the Treasury Department transferred the thirty-
five acres (but not the 1.99) and the facilities back to the Department of the Army. 58
Congress also directed the Department of the Army to offer a ten-year lease of the hospital
to the City and County of San Francisco for the treatment of AIDS patients; but the city took
no action to implement this provision. Meanwhile, the Army contemplated what uses it might
make of the complex. The Presidio concluded that it could well use the twelve sets of family
housing for officers' quarters but its mission requirements could not justify retention of the
hospital building. Its suggestion that Sixth Army might be interested in establishing its
headquarters there fell on deaf ears. The commander of Letterman Army Medical Center
became most interested in retaining the hospital for medical purposes. Letterman's
prepositioned War Reserve stocks were inconveniently stored at Fort Baker. The hospital
could provide ample storage space. Also, the 6253d U.S. Army Hospital (Reserve) could be
relocated from Hamilton Air Force Base to the hospital.
In the end, the Defense Language Institute made use of some of the structures while its
facilities at the Presidio of Monterey were being modernized. Letterman and the Presidio's
Directorate of Engineering and Housing employed the hospital for the storage of mobilization
stocks. A Chinese-American International School subsequently occupied part of a wing. 59
2. The Buildings
Hospital (1801). The seven-story building of reinforced concrete, built in 1932,
has a rectangular plan with three wings projecting to the north. It possessed a Classical
Revival style and the exterior was covered with a light beige brick veneer. Red tile covers the
roof. Nautical and medical insignia and a simple entablature embellish the front. The 1952
addition to the front of the building consisted of two large, Modern style wings extending
southward and joined by a one-story covered porch. The flat roofs were covered with asphalt.
57. San Francisco Examiner, April 27, 1981.
58. Richard S. Schweiker, Secretary of Treasury, November 13, 1981, to John O. Marsh, Secretary of the Army.
Not until 1984 did the 1.99 acres revert to Army, allowing it to construct a short road joining the Presidio's road
network with the hospital's.
59. Col. F. Whitney Hall, Jr., PSF, November 13, 1981, to U.S. Army Forces Command, fort McPherson;
Sacramento Division Engineer, "Cultural Resources Inventory Update," p. 98.
Maintenance building (1802). This rectangular, single story, concrete building was built in
1932. Details suggest the structure came into being in two phases. The western end contained
a steam power generator with an eight-story smoke /steam stack. Utilitarian in style.
Recreation center (1805). Built in 1932, the V/2 story, wood frame, rectangular building's front
facade had a center pavilion with a l'/2 story temple-front entrance supported by four wood
classical columns. Built in a Georgian Revival style, the building was compatible with the
Senior enlisted quarters (1806). Also constructed in 1932, the two-story, concrete structure had
a rectangular plan. The first story contained eight garages and the second floor, the quarters.
Red tile covered the gable roof.
Senior enlisted quarters (1807). Built in 1920, before the present hospital, this three-story,
wood frame building had stuccoed walls. The ground level at the rear of the building reached
the middle of the first story, the structure having been built into a hill. Asphalt tile covered
the hipped roof.
Nurses' quarters (1808). Imitating Mount Vernon, a favorite prototype for the Colonial Revival
style of the Depression era, the three-story, rectangular structure, of brick and wood
construction, had a red tile roof and, on the front, three-story Doric columns. The Army
converted the building to offices.
Officers' quarters (1809 and 1810) preceded the present hospital, 1809 having been built in
1920, and 1810 in 1915, making the latter the oldest building in the complex. Both sets housed
a single family. Officers quarters (1811 through 1815) all built in 1932 as duplexes were
Colonial Revival in style, with stuccoed walls, gable roofs, and semi-circular lanettes with fan
sash in the attic stories on the gable ends. The wooden entrance porches had curved gable
roofs that recalled the Regency mode of the Classical Revival.
Laboratories (1818 and 1819). These two structures composed the Plague Investigation
Laboratory. Removed from the main hospital complex the one-story structures had brick
veneer walls, barred windows, and flat roofs. Utilitarian in style, they too were constructed
in 1932. Nearby stood three shed-like buildings (1820, 1821,and 1822) whose dates of
construction have not been determined. Small metal doors covered the entrances. Signs saying
"Danger, Contagious Disease Research" identified them as being associated with the labs.
To the north of the main hospital, at a higher elevation, a level stretch of ground originally
served as a cemetery for the hospital. Photographs indicate a considerable number of wooden
grave markers said to have dated from the late 1800s. Later an asphalt parking area covered
at least part of the trapezoidal-shaped cemetery. Unmarked graves still exist in the area.
F. Fortifications 60
The coastal defenses located at Fort Winfield Scott, together with other coastal defenses
at San Francisco Bay, constitute one of the best and most extensive museums of coast defense
architecture and engineering to be found in North America. Collectively, they illustrate the
evolution of coastal defenses from the American Third system (Fort Point), through the post
Civil War developments (East Battery), the modernization era (1890-1905), and on through
World Wars I and II. They present through physical evidence the introduction of such
important new elements as artillery fire control improvements, submarine mining, and
antiaircraft defenses. They illustrate the types of emplacements required for a large variety
of guns and mortars between 1853 and 1946 - from pre-Civil War smoothbores to the great
1. Fort Point
The U.S. Army fort at Fort Point, the only complete brick-walled American
Third System fort in the coastal defenses on the West Coast, contained three tiers of casemates
that had embrasures for ninety guns and a barbette tier on its roof having thirty-six gun
emplacements. The fort contained magazines and living quarters as well. A garrison first
occupied the fort in 1861. Although the improved artillery of the Civil War demonstrated that
masonry forts had become outmoded, Fort Point continued to be armed for a time. In 1882
general orders named the fort and the immediate reservation Fort Winfield Scott. When
coastal searchlights became part of the defenses, about 1912, a 60-inch searchlight was placed
on the barbette tier. Down to the early 1920s, the fort's quarters continued to house troops.
In World War II, two 3-inch guns were emplaced on the barbette tier - Batteries Point and
2. West and East Batteries
Following the Civil War army engineers remodeled the coastal defenses so as
to enable them to withstand the improved rifled artillery that came out of the war. Engineers
constructed two large batteries on top of the headlands at Fort Point, naming them East and
60. This section is based on Thompson, Historic Resource Study, Seacoast Fortifications, San Francisco Harbor,
Golden Gate National Recreation Area (Denver: National Park Service, n.d.). Full documentation is contained therein.
In addition, some structures associated with the defenses are herein listed.
Aerial Photograph of Fort Winfield Scott, 1937.
A. Battery Cranston, two 10-inch guns
B. Battery Marcus Miller, three 10-inch guns
C. Battery Boutelle, three 5-inch guns
D. Battery Godfrey, three 12-inch guns
E. Battery Dynamite, three 15-inch guns
F. Battery Saffold, two 12-inch guns
G. Battery Crosby, two 6-inch guns
H. Battery Chamberlin, four 6-inch guns
I. Batteries Stotsenburg and McKinnon, 12-inch mortars
J. Central Reserve Magazine
K. Formerly Batteries Howe and Wagner, 12-inch mortars
L Mine Depot
Coastal Defenses, Fort Winfield Scott.
West batteries. Each had an earthen parapet twenty feet thick. An earthen traverse, twenty
feet thick stood between each pair of 15-inch Rodman guns. Brick and concrete ammunition
magazines were placed under the traverses. Construction of West Battery on the bluff south
and west of Fort Point began in 1870. By 1873 twelve 15-inch Rodmans stood mounted. Work
on East battery began in 1873 and was still underway in 1876 when Congress refused to
appropriate additional fortification funds. Construction of modern batteries in the 1890s
almost wholly destroyed West Battery, but six of its magazines survived: Magazine 1658 is
located on the left flank of Battery Boutelle. Magazine 1647 is incorporated into the right flank
of Battery Godfrey. Magazine 1646 is located on the left flank of Battery Godfrey. The other
two magazines, 1640 and 1643, each standing by itself, are found to the south of Battery
Godfrey. They probably served as magazines for a nearby antiaircraft battery during World
War II. In the 1890s five guns were mounted in East Battery while the modernization of the
coastal defenses was in progress. Today much more of this battery survives than its western
3. The Modern Era
In the period 1890-1905, sometimes called the Endicott era, no fewer than
seventeen gun and mortar batteries became part of Fort Scott's defenses. All were large affairs
composed of massive amounts of concrete and thick earthen parapets. Their magazines and
service rooms lay buried deep under the firing platforms although the magazines of the
mortar batteries were on the same level as the weapons but protected by earthen traverses.
Subsequent construction, such as the Golden Gate Bridge approach road, has destroyed or
seriously impaired five of the batteries.
Battery Blaney four 3-inch guns (635)
Constructed in 1901, Battery Blaney, located on a bluff, above Crissy Field, guarded the
harbor inside the Golden Gate. Its weapons consisted of four 15-pounder, 3-inch, rapid-fire
guns. It was the first battery at San Francisco to have its major concrete elements built as
separate monoliths to guard against cracking from unequal settling. Named in honor of Lt.
Daniel Blaney whom the British killed at Fort Oswego, New York, in 1814, it had its guns
mounted on balanced pillar mounts. Engineers dismounted its guns after World War I, in
1920 when inner harbor defenses became less important.
Battery Sherwood, two 5-inch guns (636)
Close by to Blaney stood Battery Sherwood with its two 5-inch rapid-fire guns mounted on
barbette carriages, pedestal mounts. Constructed in 1900-1901 near the national cemetery, it
was named in honor of Lt. Walter Sherwood, killed in action in a battle with Florida's
Seminoles in 1840. Designed to cover a submarine mine field, it was abandoned about 1915
when the mine fields moved to outside the Golden Gate.
Battery Lancaster, three 12-inch guns (998)
Located on the tip of the bluff above the old masonry fort, Battery Lancaster mounted three
12-inch rifles on disappearing carriages that bore on the Golden Gate itself. Named in honor
of Lt. Col. James M. Lancaster who died at Fort Monroe, Virginia, in 1900, the greater part
of the battery was destroyed in the 1930s by the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Remnants, including a gun emplacement, may be seen near the Toll Plaza.
Battery Cranston, two 10-inch guns (1661)
Battery Cranston had two 10-inch guns mounted on disappearing carriages. Constructed in
1897-1898, it was named in honor of Lt. Arthur Cranston who lost his life in the Lava Beds
of northern California during the Modoc War, in 1873. The Golden Gate Bridge Authority
uses the battery as a shop and storage facility.
Battery Marcus Miller, three 10-inch guns (1660)
Construction of Marcus Miller began in 1891, making it the first modern battery undertaken
in San Francisco defenses. Completion was delayed, however, until the Ordnance Department
developed a satisfactory disappearing carriage. Named in honor of an artillery officer, Brig.
Gen. Marcus Miller, who had fought in the Civil War, the Modoc War, and the Nez Perce
War, the battery acquired its three guns by 1897. The guns were dismounted in 1920 when
more powerful weapons were being designed for harbor defense.
Battery Boutelle, three 5-inch guns (1651)
Construction of this battery began in 1898. Located south of Battery Marcus Miller it had
three 5-inch, rapid fire guns mounted on balanced pillar mounts. Named in honor of Lt.
Henry M. Boutelle, killed in action near Aliago, Philippine Islands in 1899, it was the only
battery of its kind south of the Golden Gate. The Engineers removed its guns during World
War I for duty elsewhere.
Battery Godfrey, three 12-inch guns (1647)
Excavation for this large battery began in 1892. In 1895 the first platforms for a 12-inch rifle
anywhere in the nation came into completion here. Cable from streetcar lines and old streetcar
rails reinforced the concrete. Named in honor of Capt. George J. Godfrey, killed in action at
Cavite, Luzon, Philippines, in 1899, Godfrey became the first of the modern batteries to be
completed and armed in San Francisco's defenses. Its guns guarded the harbor until 1943.
Battery Crosby, two 6-inch guns (1630)
Completed and armed by 1900, Crosby had two 6-inch, rapid-fire rifles mounted on
disappearing carriages. Named in honor of Lt. Franklin B. Crosby, killed in the battle of
Chancellorsville, Virginia, in 1863, this battery also remained in service until 1943.
Battery Lowell Chamberlin, four 6-inch guns (1621)
The last of the modern batteries to be built at Fort Winfield Scott Battery Lowell Chamberlin
mounted four 6-inch, rapid-fire guns on disappearing carriages. Constructed between 1902
and 1904, it was named in honor of Capt. Lowell A. Chamberlin, a Civil War veteran who
died in 1899. The four guns were dismounted in 1917 but, in 1920 engineers modified two
emplacements to receive 6-inch guns on barbette (nondisappearing) carriages. These two guns
remained in service until after World War II and the end of the traditional coast defenses. In
1976 the National Park Service mounted a 6-inch gun on a disappearing carriage in
Battery Saffold, two 12-inch guns (1354)
Construction of this battery of two 12-inch guns mounted on barbette carriages began in 1896
and the guns were mounted by the end of 1897. A unique characteristic of Safford was that
its guns could fire both seaward and into San Francisco Bay. Named in honor of Capt Marion
M. Saffold who, along with Godfrey above, died in action at Cavite, Philippine Islands, its
guns were dismounted in 1943.
Batteries Stotsenburg and William McKinnon (1430)
Constructed as one battery in 1897, the work consisted of four pits in a straight line, each pit
having four 12-inch, rifled, breech-loaded mortars. Magazines and service rooms stood
between the pits and were covered with earthen traverses. Called Mortar Battery 2 while
under construction, it was formally named in honor of Capt. John M. Stotsenburg, killed at
Tingua, Luzon, Philippine Islands, in 1899. Later, the number of mortars was reduced to eight
and the battery divided for more efficient operation. Pits C and D became Battery William
McKinnon in honor of Chaplain McKinnon who served with distinction in the Spanish-
American War and the Filipino Insurrection.
Batteries Howe and Arthur Wagner (1287)
This work, too, began as one battery of sixteen 12-inch rifled mortars. It too became divided
in two. At first named in honor of Col. Albion P. Howe, a veteran of both the Mexican and
Civil wars who died in 1897, the two western pits were named after the division in honor of
Col. Arthur L. Wagner, Military Secretary of the Army, who served with distinction during
the war with Spain and who died in 1905. Unlike the straight line of Batteries Stotsenburg
and McKinnon, these batteries were built in the shape of a cross with a pit in each quarter.
The weapons were dismounted in 1920. At some later date, the Army buried three of the four
mortar pits under an artificial hill probably because Fort Scott's family quarters surrounded
it. An entrance through the one remaining mortar pit leads to former magazine and service
Batteries Slaughter and Baldwin
Battery Slaughter consisted of three 8-inch rifles mounted on disappearing carriages. Located
near the national cemetery for the defense of the inner harbor, it was destroyed or buried
during construction of the Golden Gate Bridge approach road. One small corner of concrete
may be seen on the side of the highway. Battery Baldwin, two 3-inch, rapid-fire guns on
balanced pillar mounts nearby, has also been removed.
The Army selected a site for two 3-inch antiaircraft guns on the left flank of Battery Godfrey
in 1920 and constructed two concrete plugs for mounting the guns. This and two other
antiaircraft batteries became the first such in the harbor defenses of San Francisco. These guns
were moved to Fort Funston in 1925. By 1937 two similar weapons were mounted on the
same plugs and named AA Battery No. 3. These two weapons were moved to Fort Cronkhite
in 1939. The plugs remain. (It is believed that mobile 3-inch antiaircraft guns were emplaced
at both Fort Scott and the Presidio of San Francisco immediately after the attack on Pearl
Submarine Mine Depot
Controlled, electrically-fired submarine mines (then called torpedoes) were introduced to San
Francisco's harbor defenses in 1884. Between 1907 and 1910 the Army constructed a mine
depot at Fort Winfield Scott on the bay shore east of Fort Point. The depot consisted of a
wharf, a tramway leading from the buildings to the wharf, a cable tank building, a mine
storehouse, two loading rooms, and two explosives rooms. Of these, the cable tank building
has been demolished.
Mine Wharf (984).
This wharf, completely rebuilt in 1941, measured 210 feet by 60 feet and had an approach of
328 feet by 20 feet. It had a capacity of one mine planter vessel.
Mine Storehouse (979).
This structure, originally 50 feet by 30 feet in size, was later lengthened to 150 feet.
Galvanized iron walls on a steel frame, it contained two storerooms, a testing tank, and a
traveling crane with a 3,000-pound capacity and a triplex block having a two-ton capacity.
The building stored all the material for eleven groups of mines. In 1990 it served as a shop
Loading rooms (985 and 986)
Each room measured 24 feet by 46 feet and each had a traveling crane with a one-ton capacity
and a triplex block with a two-ton capacity for moving the mines in and out. Each also had
a testing tank measuring 5 feet by 33 feet. Two mines could be loaded with explosives
simultaneously in each room. The walls of the buildings consisted of galvanized iron on a
wooden frame. The testing tanks have been filled with concrete and the buildings have
become NFS maintenance facilities.
Explosive rooms (987)
The two structures share one building number. The small, 8 feet by 9/2 feet, buildings had
galvanized iron walls on a wood frame. By 1945 explosives for the mines were stored
elsewhere, possibly in the magazines of some abandoned battery. In 1945 one of these rooms
stored fuses for mines. These early 1900s explosives rooms have been converted to restrooms.
By 1915, the mine depot was considered to be inadequate - too small and the wharf was
subjected to heavy swell and undertows. Nevertheless the facility remained and in the 1937
defense project for San Francisco, it became the assembly plant for the Main Channel
minefield. During World War II the depot served as a mine assembly plant.
Mine Casemates I and II (1600 and 1601)
Both casemates, from where electrical signals were sent to explode the submarine mines,
stood on Baker Beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean and controlled one of the minefields
planted outside the Golden Gate. Casemate I, a concrete structure built in 1912, measured 24
feet by 56 feet. It stood 200 feet inland from high tide and an earthen embankment hid it from
the sea. In World War I the structure was strengthened by the addition of concrete over the
roof and the walls. It served in the harbor defenses until World War II until 1943, when the
larger Casemate II replaced it.
Mining Casemate II, situated a little farther inland in 1943 was a double casemate that
contained the equipment to operate two minefields - Mines II in the Main Channel, and
Mines III in the South Channel. It retains some of its original equipment including control
panels and equipment for removing poison gases from the air and contaminated personnel.
69. Submarine mine loading buildings, Fort Winfield Scott. Structure nearest the camera was a flammable
material storehouse of uncertain origins. E. Thompson
Fire Control Stations
Several artillery fire control stations remain at Fort Winfield Scott. At the tip of the bluff at
Fort Point, west of the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, are four or five dug-in, reinforced
concrete structures partially camouflaged by earth and rock. They appear to date from before
World War II but saw service during the war. In the postwar plans two were retained, one
for Battery Lowell Chamberlin and one for Mines II. Three have been assigned numbers: 1662,
1663, and 1664.
A large, two-room, concrete fire control station (1344) stands just off Washington Boulevard
and adjacent to the West Coast Memorial. Before World War II it served as the harbor defense
station but its wartime role remains unknown. The walls are partly protected by earthen
embankments but the structure does not now possess any overhead protection from enemy
Another large, two-room, concrete fire control station (1644) stands south of Battery Godfrey.
Its specific function remains unknown.
Because of the high cliffs at San Francisco, fire control stations were usually dug-in affairs and
towers were not required as they often were on the East Coast. Nonetheless, a concrete, two-
story tower (1665) was built on the left flank of Battery Lancaster for signaling purposes with
defenses on the Marin Headlands.
Battery Dynamite 1399
The Army did not choose to have this type of weapon, a pneumatic gun that fired charges
of dynamite by means of compressed air. But the U.S. Congress appropriated funds for
mounting a three-gun battery at Fort Scott in 1895. At the time of the Spanish-American War,
army engineers constructed huge earth and concrete traverses around the guns for their
protection. The Army remained skeptical of the weapons and the guns were sold in 1904.
During World War II Dynamite Battery served as the Harbor Defense Command Post (HDCP)
and the Harbor Entrance Control Post (HECP) for San Francisco Harbor Defenses. At the
outbreak of the war the HDCP stood eighteen feet above the battery's emplacement 1.
Measuring 37 feet by 87 feet it proved too small for the joint Army and Navy operating
personnel. In early 1944 a two-story structure built on top of the parapet in front of gun
emplacements 2 and 3 replaced it. The impressive complex remains and until recently the
Presidio considered converting it into an alternate emergency operations center having a
capacity of 120 personnel. Immediately east of the battery is its original powerhouse (1398),
which contains an original switchboard for routing power to the gun emplacements.
In the vicinity of the mine depot in the lower Presidio are several structures that may have
a relation with the harbor defenses or with the Engineers who built the batteries. In any case,
more research is required on the origins and functions of the following structures:
Signal Cable Hut (946), Ordnance Storage (948), Warehouse 983, Guardhouse (988),
and an Engineer's Plumbing Shop (989). It is possible that the Engineers had the
warehouse (983) and the plumbing shop (989) here inasmuch as they had a number
of facilities in this area ever since the 1850s.
On the Fort Scott plateau, east of the batteries and Lincoln Boulevard stood a number of
structures directly associated with the coastal defenses having served as maintenance, repair,
and storage facilities:
Ordnance repair shop (1339), built in 1900.
Ordnance repair shop (1355), built in 1942.
Ordnance repair shop (1357), built in 1940.
Ordnance storage building (1340), built in 1917.
Ordnance shop (1363), built in 1911.
Searchlight repair shop (1353), built in 1939.
4. Nike Missiles
About 1957 construction began on batteries for Nike surface-to-air missiles. Of
the five batteries built within today's Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one was located
in south Winfield Scott, near the Marine Hospital. This battery, named Battery Caulfield (the
only missile battery given a personal name), was numbered SF-89-L. In 1971 B Battery, 4th
Missile Battalion had established its operation in the air defense administration building
(1648) immediately behind old Battery Godfrey, as were the headquarters of the 1st Missile
Battalion (NIKE HERCULES), 250th Artillery, California National Guard.
The 40th Artillery Brigade, in command of all Nike installations in the Bay Area, established
its headquarters in Fort Scott's headquarters building (1201). Other Fort Scott structures
occupied by Nike organizations included:
barracks 1218 - headquarters battery barracks
quartermaster storehouse 1219 - personnel
1221 - motor pool office
quartermaster shop 1227 - search maintenance radar
Battery Saffold 1354 - communications equipment
Eventually all Nike sites in the Bay Area and elsewhere in the nation became abandoned
when intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) systems were deployed by both the United
States and the Soviet Union. At the same time, the United States began a major program in
the research and development of a defense system against attack by ballistic missiles. ICBMs
fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California were intercepted by advanced Nike
missiles (the Nike-Zeus) at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific's Marshall Islands. In 1965 an
advanced version of the defensive missile, named the Spartan, replaced the Nike-Zeus. In
recent times this program has been nicknamed "Star Wars," and in 1991 President George
Bush endorsed the development of a ground-based missile defense system that could shoot
down .99 percent of 200 incoming warheads.
G. Early Water System
An employee in the Quartermaster Department, Fort Mason, O.W. Degen published
a two-part article on the history of the Presidio of San Francisco's water supply. 62 He began
with a brief description of the Spanish period giving El Polin Spring a different location than
today's site. The Spanish first obtained fresh water from a spring in front of Infantry Terrace.
In 1910 an old tunnel was found on that site. Apparently the supply was insufficient because
additional water came from a spring in West Cantonment due north of the Julius Kahn
Playground (El Polin Spring). Degen also described a spring with Indian lore attached to it
at the Rancho De Ojo de Agua de Figuroa. It emerged near the intersection of Lyon and
Vallejo streets. 63 (For some reason now unknown he named this spring "Polin".)
In the early American period, 1853, the Mountain Lake Water Company formed for the
purpose of obtaining water from Mountain Lake. The company soon failed, however, and the
project came to an end. Before long a new company, the San Francisco City Water Works (San
Francisco Water Company) appeared on the scene, in 1857. It acquired part of the Lobos
Creek Ranch and changed its name to Spring Valley Water Works. It proposed to take water
from Lobos Creek, formerly called Arroyo del Puerto, rather than the lake. It constructed a
wooden plank flume following the cliffs along the ocean shore to Fort Point. At the fort it
built a short tunnel behind the counterscarp battery. From there the flume continued on
hanging to the bluff to where Crissy Field headquarters later stood. At that point the flume
changed to a twenty-six-inch cement pipe that ran along the south side of Crissy Field "to
near the present PX."
There the War Department installed a small pumping plant and the water was pumped to
two army reservoirs, 438,000 gallons and 70,000 gallons. These were located "in front of the
61. Gale, "Reference History," pp. 21-22; File 0-2, Air Defense Site Numbers, Master Plans, DEH, PSF. Erwin
N. Thompson, Pacific Ocean Engineers, History of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Pacific, 3905-1980 (n.d., n.p.),
pp. 265-280 and 361-364; U.S. News and World Report, Oct. 7, 1991.
62. O.W. Degen, "Development of the San Francisco Water Supply System; Part I - Original Sources," "Supply
System; Part II - Spring Valley Co." unidentified newspaper clippings (other material in the same file dated 1930s),
GCGF 1922-1935, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
63. An officer, writing in 1887, said the Presidio had a windmill pumping water from a pond or catchment
basin near the southeast corner of the reservation, i.e., close to Lyon and Vallejo. Lt. J.S. Oyster, December 29, 1887,
to Quartermaster, Department of California, CCF OQMG, RG 92, NA.
commanding officers' quarters" but were filled in and abandoned. Spring Valley water
continued on to a pump house at the foot of Van Ness Street. 64
Prior to Spring Valley Water Works (or Company) making use of Lobos Creek it had executed
an agreement on April 30, 1857 with the Presidio inasmuch as the federal government
claimed the creek as being within the reservation. In 1862 it requested a similar agreement
concerning the water of Mountain Lake. While surprised that the company did not already
have permission, the War Department was only too happy to grant it. 65
An 1870 description of the Presidio described the supply of water as abundant and of
excellent quality. A windmill and mule-power forced from the Spring Valley flume into a
reservoir at the south end of the post, then by pipe to the various buildings. This same
description reappeared in an 1875 report. It is somewhat surprising then to read in an 1872
report that the post was supplied with water by water wagons and by a pipe from the
"Tunnel Spring," 2,000 feet from a reservoir. 66
An army engineer report in 1877 described the Lobos Creek as supplying the Spring Valley
Company with 2 million gallons daily and that the creek drained about 2'/2 square miles of
sandy land. The part wood and part masonry flume ran from the creek to Fort Mason, a
distance of 23,700 feet. 67
Lt. Joseph S. Oyster, regimental quartermaster of the 1st Artillery prepared a comprehensive
study of the Presidio's water supply in 1887. His principal conclusion stated that the water
supply should come completely under government control. He said that water still came from
the company's flume by means of a steam pump and forced through 2,600 feet of six-inch
pipe to the reservoir at the south end of the post. Water for Fort Point, however, came from
a spring on the hillside southeast of the fort and from a reservoir on Telegraph (Rob) Hill.
This water came from the Spring Valley flume via two windmills and it also supplied the
national cemetery. When the windmills broke down, which was often, water wagons from
the Presidio had to supply Fort Point. Two other windmills on the reservation, one near the
southeast corner and one near the 1st Avenue (Arguello) entrance, supplied water for
64. Degen, "Development of Water Supply."
65. Col. Joseph G. Totten, War Department, December 11, 1962, to Col. R.E. DeRussy, San Francisco, Letters
to Officers of Engineer No. 34, OCE, RG 77, NA.
66. War Department, Circular 4, a Report on Barracks and Hospitals (1870), p. 445; Circular (1875), pp. 579-
520; and Quartermaster General's Office, Outline Descriptions of U.S. Military Posts and Stations (1872), p. 93.
67. Maj. George H. Mendell, Report ... on the Water Supply of San Francisco (1877), p. 98.
sprinkling roads and for irrigation purposes. In addition to the government getting control
of the supply, Oyster recommended acquiring new pumping machinery and constructing a
large reservoir on Telegraph Hill that could supply all the Presidio, and the digging of
Oyster's recommendations bore fruit in 1894 when the Spring Valley Water Company
informed the Army that it was abandoning the "Lobos Creek water System." That same year
the Army installed a practically new system at a cost of $51,100.8 A 1904 description reported
that the water from wells at Mountain Lake was of good quality, although the Presidio had
also made connections with the Spring Valley "mains." Ten wells had been dug and they
supplied 13,100 gallons per hour. Pumps carried water to the engineers' reservoir for
constructing fortifications and such troops that were there. Another pump supplied water
from Mountain Lake for fire and sprinkling purposes, including the general hospital. An
artesian well, delivering about 100 gallons per hour, supplied the quartermaster mule stable,
while the transient public animal corrals obtained their water from the post reservoir. The
post also supplied, via government steamer, to Fort Baker, Angel Island, and for the transport
tug Slocum. The daily capacity of the government plant had been 156,100 gallons for domestic
and 74,100 gallons for fire and sprinkling purposes. Since this was insufficient for all needs,
it had become necessary to connect with the city main permanently.
After listing the machinery at the government pumping plant, the report described the
one cement and brick, capacity 438,000 gallons, elevation 60 feet,
one cement, capacity 112,000 gallons, elevation 60 feet.
At Fort Point:
one cement, capacity 140,000 gallons, elevation 246 feet (1469)
one cement, capacity 80,000 gallons, elevation 100 feet. 69
Between 1910 and 1912 the Army constructed a new pumping plant at the mouth of Lobos
Creek (and sold off the old plant at Mountain Lake) and a new six million-gallon reservoir
(313) on Presidio Hill. The new system supplied water to all the Presidio except East
Cantonment, to Forts Winfield Scott and Mason, the army transports and docks, to Alcatraz
68. Oyster, December 29, 887, to Department of California, CCF, PSF, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
69. War Department, Outline Description of Military Posts and Reservation (1904), pp. 382-383.
and Angel islands, and to Fort Baker. During the second quarter of 1912 the plant produced
95,350,000 gallons. Still, the Spring Valley Water Company supplied an additional 2.6 million
The new water system consisted of a one million gallon reservoir (1770) at Lobos Creek, water
.valve house (1771), water filtration plant (1773), two water treatment plants (1776 and 1779),
water setting tank (1778), residence for a civilian (1781) and a two-car garage (1782). Adjacent
to the big reservoir on Presidio Hill (313), there stood a valve house (310) and a pump house
(311). On the south side of the golf course, a pump house (315) served the post's water
In 1931 the supply of water from Lobos Creek decreased to the point where Ninth Corps Area
instituted rationing. A debate ensued wherein the Presidio wished to connect with the City
of San Francisco's water mains whereas the Quartermaster General said that a "third shaft"
at Lobos Creek might be a better answer. While additional wells (1783 in 1939, 1789 in 1935)
were drilled, the water supply recovered by itself. In 1933 the Presidio supplied water to the
Marine Hospital, Fort Scott, Fort Mason, Fort McDowell, Alcatraz, National Cemetery,
Letterman, Ninth Corps Area headquarters, Crissy Field, Transport Service, and harbor boats.
70. J.B. Aleshire, Quartermaster General, August 22, 1912, to Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, General
Correspondence 1890-1914, OQMG, RG 92, NA.
CHAPTER 9: THE LEGACY
When Maj. James A. Hardie took command of the Presidio of San Francisco in 1847, he could
not have known that the post, then a small collection of crumbling adobes sheltered by sand
hills, was destined to play a significant role in the nation's military history. The military
occupation of northern California proceeded peacefully but the almost simultaneous events
of a peace treaty with Mexico and the discovery of gold in California in 1848 almost brought
the Presidio to a premature close. Volunteer soldiers deserted in droves for the mine fields
or were mustered out of the service and the regular troops who replaced them also caught
gold fever. When the year 1848 ended, the garrison's strength stood at thirteen enlisted men.
Slowly the Presidio's strength increased and in the 1850s the troops played an active role in
Indian affairs not only in California but in the wars of the Pacific Northwest. Also in that
decade army engineers began the construction of Fort Point, the only complete masonry
American Third System fort in the coastal defenses of the West Coast. Fort Point marked the
beginning of the Presidio's key role in the defenses of strategic San Francisco Bay from the
Civil War, through the war with Spain, and two world wars, to the missile era a century later.
The Civil War, 1861-1865, brought a burst of activity on the reservation. The garrison strength
climbed to more than 1,700 officers and men. Officers' quarters, barracks, a hospital, powder
magazine, chapel, and other buildings framed the parade ground. Many of these structures
remain. While no enemy stormed the beaches, the Presidio, along with Alcatraz Island,
maintained the peace in northern California and stood prepared to defend California's gold
for the Union treasuries.
In the postwar years army engineers constructed massive, new batteries on the Presidio's
headlands. The 1870s saw the post's artillery batteries marching off to engage in more Indian
campaigns, including the Nez Perce War, the Bannock War, the Great Sioux War, and the
disastrous (for both the Army and the Indians) Modoc War. At home, the U.S. Treasury
Department had a Marine Hospital constructed on the Presidio in 1875 to care for sick and
injured merchant seamen from all nations who landed in American ports. It performed its
mission of mercy for over a century, finally closing its doors in 1981. The Presidio held a
massive celebration in 1876 on the occasion of the nation's centennial birthday. More than
100,000 spectators gathered on its hills to watch military and naval drills and maneuvers.
The post's importance grew significantly in 1878 when the Military Division of the Pacific,
Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell commanding, moved its headquarters from downtown San
Francisco to the Presidio. For the next eight years it served as the nerve center for all
operations on the West Coast. Congress's refusal to appropriate funds for a suitable
headquarters building eventually forced the division to return to the city.
In 1884 the Presidio's post cemetery became the San Francisco National Cemetery, containing
the graves of the known and unknown of all ranks. For one hundred years, 1890-1990, the
Fort Point Life Saving Station in the lower Presidio carried out its mission of promoting
boating safety, search and rescue, and aids to navigation. In the latter year the U.S. Coast
Guard moved the operation to a new station across the bay at Fort Baker.
By 1890 the last of the Indian wars were fought and the frontier declared closed. The U.S.
Army closed down its many small, remote posts in the West and built up fewer but larger
permanent installations, including the Presidio. Between 1890 and 1910, the garrison's
strength increased fourfold. Beginning in the 1890s, the Presidio's cavalry troops assumed
responsibility of protecting Yosemite and Sequoia national parks.
Beautification of the reservation began in the 1880s with the planting of a forest on the ridges
and in the western part of the reservation. At the turn of the century, the U.S. Department
of Agriculture was invited to have its experts assist in further beautification work on the
reservation, already famous for its magnificent vistas of the coastal headlands and the Pacific
Beginning in the 1890s, the Army undertook a vast program to modernize the coastal
defenses of the nation's harbors. At San Francisco there emerged a new system of defense that
included rifled guns and mortars and the facilities for planting submarine minefields.
Engineers constructed these new works on both sides of the Golden Gate including the
Presidio where no fewer than eighteen batteries crowned the heights. Fort Winfield Scott in
the western portion of the reservation became a separate coast artillery post in 1912. By the
eve of World War II it housed the headquarters for all the Harbor Defenses of San Francisco.
In 1898 the United States went to war with Spain. The Presidio became an assembly area for
thousands of volunteers and regulars who embarked for duty in the Philippine Islands. Later,
it served for a time as the demobilization point for returning veterans and for the training of
recruit replacements for Hawaii and the Philippines. This increase in troop activity resulted
in the Army establishing Letterman General Hospital, one of the more important army
hospitals in the system. In World War II it became the debarkation hospital for the Pacific
Ocean. In 1945 no fewer than 72,000 wounded and sick patients passed through its doors.
Early in the twentieth century two men prepared plans for the further development of the
Presidio: the much respected architect Daniel H. Burnham, and army engineer Maj. William
W. Harts. While the plans of neither were fully implemented, both influenced future
developments including Mission Revival architecture in place of standard army plans,
landscaped drives such as the Park-Presidio Boulevard, and a graceful layout of buildings
along contour lines in place of the traditional straight lines encompassing a parade.
All such plans came to a temporary halt in 1906 when a large earthquake hit San Francisco.
Little damaged, the Presidio swiftly became the headquarters for the relief of the stricken city.
Soldiers patrolled the burning streets and guarded the city treasury. Refugee camps sprang
up on the reservation. Letterman opened its doors to the injured.
In 1915 the Panama-Pacific International Exposition thrilled visitors to San Francisco's
waterfront. A portion of the exposition stood on the Presidio's low land facing the bay. This
area, long the site of swamps, ponds, and tidal water, became firm, dry land by dredging and
filling. War in Europe brought the exposition to an early close and when the United States
entered World War I in 1917, this area became a mobilization camp called North Cantonment.
Even before then, in 1914, Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing had organized and trained the Eighth
Infantry Brigade at the Presidio for duty on the Mexican border and the subsequent Mexican
The Army's headquarters for the Pacific Slope, now called the Ninth Corps Area and
commanded by Maj. Gen. Hunter Liggett, returned to the Presidio from San Francisco in 1920,
this time with the intention to stay. It established its offices in an imposing, concrete, three-
story barracks on the main parade. A year later the Army Air Service established Crissy Field
in the lower Presidio, the first and only air defense station on the West Coast. For the next
fifteen years Crissy Field assisted the Coast Artillery Corps in the training of its companies
in target practice. It also assisted in the origins of the U.S. Air Mail Service, carried out aerial
forest fire patrols, successfully handled aerial photographic assignments, promoted an interest
in aviation on the West Coast, and participated in community activities.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration contributed
substantially to both the Presidio and Fort Winfield Scott, constructing new buildings such
as the War Department theater and bringing the road systems up to standard. The Ninth
Corps Area also assumed administrative and supply support for the Civilian Conservation
Corps camps in the western states. Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and its approach
roads during this decade also impacted the military reservation, usually benefitting it with
the construction of new facilities, such as the central reserve ammunition magazine at Fort
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii resulted in the establishment of
the Western Defense Command at the Presidio. During the months following the attack the
possibility of an enemy force landing on the West Coast or Alaska seemed possible and the
Presidio played a key role in organizing a defense. Although the fear of invasion lessened
after the U.S. Navy's victory at the Battle of Midway in June 1942, the Western Defense
Command remained on the alert for the duration of the war.
With the coming of peace, the Presidio became the headquarters of the Sixth U.S. Army.
Among its early commanders were such outstanding wartime leaders as Gen. Joseph W.
Stilwell, Gen. Mark W. Clark, and Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer. Its responsibilities included
providing defense for the western United States and the training of ROTC, National Guard,
and Army Reserve units throughout the far west. By the end of the 1950s, the Presidio
employed about 10,000 people, both military and civilian. In addition to Sixth Army
headquarters the Presidio itself became a part of the network of combat-ready army
installations under the U.S. Forces Command.
Postwar construction brought significant improvement in housing for the post's military
families. Recreational activities expanded with the construction of clubs, a gymnasium, golf
course improvements, library, and bowling alleys. Letterman expanded into new facilities and
became the Letterman Army Medical Center. Associated with the hospital but in separate
facilities, the Letterman Army Institute of Research specialized in such work as researching
in the fields of artificial blood, laser surgery, and resuscitation.
In 1989 the U.S. Congress approved a report that had recommended the closure of the
Presidio of San Francisco, thus paving the way for the grand old post to become part of the
National Park System. Spain had founded the presidio in 1776. Mexico surrendered it in 1848.
The U.S. Army had occupied it since 1847, more than 140 years of national expansion,
through large and small wars, and the evolution of military science from smoothbore guns
to guided missiles. More than eighty years ago Major Harts wrote that the Presidio possessed
great natural beauty and that probably no other military post in all the world had a more
magnificent location and commanding position. And so it is described in the year of 1990.
Chronology: Geography, Events, and Structures, 1847-1990
This appendix has been prepared at the request of planners in order to present a chronology of
developments at the various sub-areas of the Presidio of San Francisco. Some data have been included
that go beyond the prescribed scope of the special history study.
Presidio of San Francisco & Fort Winfield Scott
July 1846. Captain Fremont spiked guns at the Castillo.
July 1846. Lieutenant Misroon, U.S. Navy, raised the Stars and Stripes over the Castillo and visited the
March 1847. New York Volunteers occupied the presidio.
May 1848. Volunteer troops repaired the Castillo. Guns mounted by 1849.
May 9, 1848. Volunteer troops worked on the road between the presidio and the Castillo.
May 16, 1848. Lt. W.H. Warner began to survey the military reservation.
July 1, 1848. Lieutenant Kimball, New York Volunteers, recorded in his diary that he killed a coyote
when going into San Francisco.
July 22, 1848. Kimball went hunting. Killed four quail and two rabbits. He did not say where.
July 1849. Post returns recorded the death of an enlisted man. Another death accidental, was noted in
1850. The commanding officer, Capt. Erasmus D. Keyes, placed a cannon at the southeast corner of the
reservation and placed fencing on a line running to the bay and parallel to "Larkin" Street.
May 16, 1850. Alta California newspaper. Described a ride to the Presidio. Hills were covered with
verdure and wild flowers, road was good, and strawberries grew in the vicinity of the post.
May 26, 1852. Inspector General G.A. McCall inspected. He counted 12 horses, 16 mules, and 2 wagons.
He noted that lumber, fuel, and water was hauled to the post. Wood cutters had to travel from one-
quarter mile to one mile from the post to gather wood for fuel. Adobe composed the buildings and
the post had no hospital, but it had a hospital steward. Artillery consisted of two 6 pounder field guns
and two 12-pounder howitzers.
July 1, 1852. Capt. Edward D. Townsend, a division of staff officer, visited the Presidio. He described
the country as dirty, sandy, and mean. At the old Mexican breastwork at the point he picked and
pressed "lupine" and "escolehia" (Eschscholtzia californica, California poppy).
September 15, 1853. U.S. engineers "removed" the Spanish /Mexican castillo at Fort Point, dismounting
the American artillery.
January 1, 1854. Wind blew the roof off the adobe barracks and broke window glass.
May 8, 1854. Division headquarters ordered construction of a barracks, 116 feet long, two stories, and
a kitchen added to the mess room in the adobe officers' quarters.
May 10, 1854. Reference to infantry drill, skirmishing training, and artillery drill - parade ground?
Hospital established in an adobe on north side of compound. Structure was a magazine in Mexican
era. Nevertheless, the building should be leveled.
March 15, 1855. Officers' quarters, 1, adobe, six rooms, occupied by two officers and an officers' mess.
(At least two other officers lived in San Francisco - post surgeon and depot quartermaster.)
Barracks, 2, frame, two stories, four barrack rooms, two messrooms, two kitchens.
Adobe, 3, formerly the barracks, 105 feet by 20 feet, six rooms. Now: guard room, prison,
clothing room, two laundresses' quarters, quartermaster storeroom.
Adobe, 4, 60 feet by 20 feet. Hospital in part.
Adobe, 5, one corner used as a stable, 20 feet by 20 feet.
March 7, 1857. Adobe officers' quarters, A. Frame barracks, B. Adobe, C. same as in 1855 except
married men replaced the laundresses, also a carpenter and blacksmith shop added. Hospital, D, frame,
recently erected. Adobe E, stable. Adobe F, laundress. Adobe, G, stable and laundress. Subsistence
storehouse, I. Adobe, H, bakery and latrine. A proposal to enlarge the grounds, both east and west,
and north to the bluffs.
Herds of cattle illegally grazing on the reservation. Recommendation to fence the reserve on east and
south where necessary.
June 30, 1861. Post commander recommended "destruction of all buildings at the Post."
Five officers living in officers' quarters, i.e. one room each and the mess room.
February 28, 1861. Permission to build a house at the terminus of the Presidio stage route and inside
the military reservation rescinded.
July 21, 1861. Visitors from San Diego landed at Fort Point wharf to inspect the new fort. Great views
from the parapet. Center of fort was sodded and adorned with flowers.
August 13, 1861. Presidio turned two of its field guns over to Fort Point.
Civil War. Temporary camps for Volunteers: Two of them, Camp Sumner and Camp Wright, were
adjacent to the Presidio.
March 15, 1862. A grazing lease that the Presidio had let a year ago ran out. A new lease was
November 8, 1864. Troops from Presidio and Fort Point assembled at Fort Point wharf to take vessel
to the city, if trouble during the national elections.
June 30, 1865. Inspection of public buildings:
Built before July 1, 1864:
13 frame officers' quarters with 12 kitchens
13 frame barracks
1 frame adjutant's office
1 frame guardhouse
1 frame storehouse
1 frame bakehouse
9 frame laundresses' quarters with 6 kitchens
1 stone magazine
1 frame gunshed
4 frame stables
1 frame hospital
Built since July 1, 1864:
4 two-story barracks, frame
2 frame laundresses' quarters with 6 kitchens
1 frame mule shed
Still under construction June 30, 1865
1 frame bachelor officers' quarters with 4 kitchens.
October 23, 1868. Orders given to dig for the cannon that marked the southeast corner of the
reservation. It had been planted in 1850.
1870. Presidio described: grass covered hills; well drained with shallow ditches around buildings;
grassy parade grounds a wind fence or lath lattice screen extended the whole length of officers' row,
12 feet high, and 36 feet in front of the buildings; pines and acacias planted at 18-foot intervals between
fence and quarters.
ca. 1870. A present-day account filed in Master Plans, DEH, PSF (Box 38.1, Shelf 1-2) says that circa
1870 a well, three feet in diameter and ten feet deep, and about six feet east of the stream had been
dug at El Polin. The article has additional data and a map.
1870. The post hospital had a cow and a small garden.
1872. Description: country hilly; soil sandy; where sheltered, all kinds of vegetables could be raised;
timber and water scarce.
1875. Surgeon's description offered little new detail: parade ground grassy all year; post built on three
sides of a parallelogram, 550 yards by 150 yards, picket fence in rear (east) of officers' row and picket
fence in rear (west) of barracks row.
July 13, 1876. The road in front of the adjutant's office and the guardhouse had earlier been planked.
This planking was now worn out. New planking needed because the guard mount took place here.
July 4, 1876. Eucalyptus tree planted on parade ground to commemorate the Centennial of the
March 10, 1877. Lumber on hand to replace rotten walk way in front of (west) of officers' row.
July 22, 1877. Street cars came to within a half mile of the reservation fence.
A coal bin constructed, capacity 1,800 tons.
1877. Description of Spring Valley Water System. The company had three sources of water, of which
Lobos Creek was nearest. Lobos supplied 2 million gallons daily. It drains 2/2 square miles of sandy
land. Water was carried in a conduit, partly wood and partly masonry, 23,700 feet long, from the creek
to Fort Mason.
1879. Division of the Pacific moved from San Francisco to the Presidio. Officers' row remodeled.
Division headquarters was set up in two barracks and their kitchens.
December 26, 1880. Commanding officer took a four-mile evening walk, "The road lies wholly in the
Reservation and winds around the hills, one moment commanding a view of the next looking off on
the grand Pacific."
August 19, 1884. Newspaper describes Presidio. Grounds finely laid out, excellent promenades. Cable
and steam cars run past Harbor View to the Presidio entrance. From car depot a broad avenue leads
up to the battery section, thence around the shops, stables, and storehouses in one direction and to the
parade ground in another. Number of mortars and field pieces on parade ground. Residences have
shade trees and flowers. Long rows of half-buried cannon balls. On Sundays the Presidio army band
plays at the Seaside Gardens.
January 24, 1881. A quarry was opened on Telegraph Hill.
August 3, 1884. Alia California: Carts hauled material from a quarry on the hillside to fill in a ravine
[behind barracks row] thus interfering with cavalry and light battery drills.
1883. Maj. William A. Jones, Department Engineer, prepared a landscape plan for the Presidio.
1883. Presidio's civilian gardeners increased from three to six.
June 18, 1885. Contract let for a new flagstaff, $235. Height not stated.
July 5, 1885. Presidio to be enlarged. Department commander recommended that the bottom land at
the foot of the bluff and north of the stables be filled in, and that the stables, corral, and shops be
moved to lower Presidio. He also recommended that work continue on filling in the ravine west of the
August 16, 1885. Alia California: "during the Winter season the hills and dells of the Presidio are clothed
in green and studded with a great variety of wild flowers. Even now . . . ferns grow in great
abundance and in the little valleys . . . some twenty or thirty varieties of wild flowers may be found."
1886. San Francisco's first Arbor Day celebrated at Presidio. Children planted 3,000 trees.
1888-1897. Army planted 100,000 trees at the Presidio.
1890. Last of Indian wars. Abandonment of remote frontier posts and concentration of troops at a few
large western posts in cities or served by railroads, including the Presidio.
1891-1897. Battery Marcus Miller and Battery Godfrey were the first of the modern coastal defenses
to be completed at the Presidio.
1895. Presidio advertised for 60,000 young Monterey pines.
1895. Beginning of brick construction at the Presidio.
1895. Nine-hole golf course established in southern Presidio.
1898. War with Spain. Camp Merriam tent camp established near Lombard Gate and in Tennessee
1899. Wood frame bachelor officers' quarters ("the Corral") burned to the ground.
1900. Construction of modern coastal fortifications at Presidio in full swing.
1901. Army contacted Gifford Pinchot, head of the Division of Forestry, U.S. Department of
Agriculture, for assistance in landscape engineering.
1902. Corps of Engineers requested new structures at Fort Point for continuing work on coastal
1902. William L. Hall, U.S. Department of Agriculture, presented landscape plan for the Presidio. Listed
1902-1906. Architect Daniel H. Burnham in San Francisco offering advice. Visited the Presidio at least
1903. Board of Officers recommended resumption of tree planting, additional roads, filling in lower
Presidio, wall on south boundary, etc.
1903. Army let a contract for 13,800 tree seedlings for Presidio.
1903. Infantry Cantonment for training recruits established near Lombard Gate. Inherited a few
structures from Sp. Am. War but troop labor built most of it. Later called East and West Cantonments.
Four buildings survive: 563, 567, 569, and 572.
1905. Presidio trees offered to other Bay Area posts.
1905. Presidio and Ferries Railroad Co. relinquished its 1892 Presidio license.
1905. Presidio Golf Club established.
1906. Earthquake. Four refugee camps established on Presidio, as were the headquarters of the Pacific
Division and the Department of California. Two of the last three adobe officers' quarters destroyed.
1906. San Francisco depot quartermaster arranged for storehouses on lower Presidio.
1906. "Spanish Mission" architecture discussed for future Fort Scott.
1907. Dept. Engineer William W. Harts wrote a report on the expansion and development of the
Presidio, including vegetation, buildings, lower Presidio, Marine Hospital, National Cemetery,
boundary walls, etc.
1907. Southern boundary marked by: stone wall in east, Lobos Creek in west, some fencing in between.
1907. Bandstand built on future Pershing Square. Octagonal, open frame, on brick piers, enclosed with
rail and fancy pickets. (1927 moved to children's playground, Infantry Terrace. 1935, demolished).
1908. Names East and West Cantonment in use. Each contained 12 small barracks, plus kitchens,
bathhouses, etc., etc. for a total of 200 buildings. All substandard.
1908. Proposal to replace timber bulkhead along road from mine depot toward Fort Point with from
155 feet to 500 feet (depending on funding) of stone and concrete wall.
1908-1910. Fort Point's masonry wall extended east by a concrete wall. Still 500 feet to mine wharf
1908. $7,500 spent beautifying PSF's wooded areas and roads.
1908. Mine wharf built, 250' x 20' and an L 80' x 40'
1908. Depot QM built a storehouse and shed near Presidio wharf. He also used a building in this area
as a morgue for dead returning from Philippines.
1908. Shoreline in lower Presidio eroded 80 feet in past two years. Seawall proposed; also, fill in
swamp - 392 acres. Same proposal in 1909.
1909. Mineral oil used for lighting at PSF.
1910. Golf course expanded to eighteen holes.
1911-1914. 114 acres of lower Presidio filled in for Expo. Warehouses moved from lower Presidio to
1912. June 18. Fort Winfield Scott became a separate post. Barracks described as most elaborate and
modern in U.S. Army.
1912. Electricity installed in Officers' Club.
1913. April 27. Family of five killed in fire in quarters.
1914. Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing arrived at PSF to command infantry brigade.
1914. Infantry brigade to Mexican border.
1915. Mrs. Pershing and three children killed in PSF fire.
1915. Fire in roof of Officers' Club.
1917. North Cantonment built in lower Presidio, 216 buildings. Troops trained for WWI.
1917. Brig. Gen. Frederick Funston buried in National Cemetery.
1917. Railroad line built from Fort Mason to Presidio. 1918, Presidio troops join the Siberian Expedition.
1919. Presidio was demobilization point for WWI and Siberian troops.
1920. Ninth Corps Area established headquarters in Barracks 35.
1920. Third Army Area said to have organized at PSF (there is conflicting evidence concerning this).
1920s and 1930s. Many buildings in East and West Cantonments demolished.
1921. Balloon hangar and generator house built in south Ft. Scott.
1924. Sewer system described: All sinks, washstands, and flushbowls are connected to underground
sewers that unite into one 24-inch pipe that empties into the bay about 300 yards west of the Presidio
dock. Garbage and manure sold to contractor and removed daily.
1924. June 23, first transcontinental flight completed at Crissy Field.
1924. Three water wells in operation, six more under construction.
1925. Boundary fences: Stone, 11,250 linear feet. Wire, 8,850 linear feet. Board, 2,700 linear feet.
1926. Officers' quarters on Funston were reroofed, painted, and underpinnings repaired.
1926. City and County of San Francisco complained about the state of PSF streets. War Dept. said it
had no money for repairs.
1926. Final 640 feet of east boundary wall built of reinforced concrete. Made to look like cut stone.
1927. Palace of Fine Arts given to City and County of SF.
1927. Beginning of a ten-year program to build army housing, nationwide.
1928. Barracks in East Cantonment converted to (warrant) officers' quarters.
1930. Summary of quarters. Officers: 23 sets at Main Post, one BOQ at Main Post, 31 sets at Infantry
Terrace, 20 sets East Terrace, 41 sets in West Cantonment.
Warrant officers: 25 sets, all BOQ, East Cantonment.
NCOs: 8 sets East Cantonment (only one suitable), 18 sets Lovers Lane (only one suitable), 48 sets West
Cantonment (none suitable), 9 sets at Main Post (all suitable).
Enlisted Barracks: 1,103 men, Main Post brick; 220 men, Main Post frame; 373 men, West Cantonment
1931. West Point Preparatory School established in cavalry barracks 682.
1931. Aug. 4. Dedication of new post chapel.
1931. Studies began on restoration of Officers' Club.
1931. 2,000 feet of cyclone fencing erected along Lobos Creek.
1931. New entrance gates for National Cemetery.
1932. Contract let for removal of 3,100 trees from PSF and Ft. Scott due to overcrowding.
1930s. Army supported planting of 15,000 trees on golf course.
1933. April 5. CCC established west coast headquarters at Ninth Corps Area, PSF.
1933. Jan. 5, Ground-breaking ceremony for Golden Gate Bridge at Crissy Field. Golden Gate Bridge
authority built for Army: several fire control stations, reserve magazine, rifle range, machine shops,
gas stations, drainage and sewer systems, living quarters, and roads. Diverted Lincoln Blvd near Toll
Plaza at a cost of $1.9 million.
1934. Officers' Club restored.
1934. Fort Point light discontinued.
1934. Drilled well and installed motor-driven deep well pump, Lobos Creek Pumping Station.
1934. Reinforced concrete addition to Ninth Corps Area headquarters, Barracks 35.
1934. 18 double NCO quarters built on Portola St. and 11 double sets built at Ft. Scott.
1935-36. CCC storehouses and sheds built lower Presidio.
1936. Fourth U.S. Army established at PSF (same staff as Ninth Corps Area).
1936. Crissy Field abandoned June 30.
1936. A brick, 10-ton forced draft garbage incinerator (670) built.
1937. Installed 2,163 feet of new 6-inch water mains.
1938. Work began on PSF rehabilitation program, $2.3 million.
1938. 6,000 linear feet of Lincoln Blvd. in Ft. Scott widened from 10 feet to 22 feet (35 feet on three
curves), and 15,600 linear feet of Ft. Scott's interior roads widened from 10 feet to 30 feet. Emulsified
asphalt on both.
1938. Presidio officially named (apparently for the second time).
1938. Renovation of BOQ, 42, at $32,300.
1938. $100,000 spent on PSF's highways, roads, and streets.
1938. 41 structures demolished in East and West Cantonments including officers' quarters, NCO
quarters, garages, stables, and servants' quarters.
1939. War Department Theater (99) constructed and landscaped.
1939. Bakers and Cooks School (220) built, $32,300.
1940. Barracks 38 and 39 completed, 250 men each, $275,000 each.
1940. Barracks 38 remodeled to be Fourth Army headquarters.
1940. Sales commissary and warehouse (603) completed, $240,200.
1941. Western Defense Command established at PSF.
1941. Fourth Army Intelligence School (Nisei) established in Crissy hangar 640.
1940. Park-Presidio Tunnel (MacArthur tunnel) opened to Golden Gate Bridge traffic.
1940. Telephones changed from manual to dial operation. Addition built to 67.
1940-41. Area A, lower Presidio, and Area E (BOQs 40 and 41) completed.
1942. Ninth Corps Area moved to Utah.
WWII. Army regained use of Palace of Fine Arts as warehouse.
WWII. Barbed wire, machine gun emplacements, and antiaircraft guns on Golf Course, Baker Beach,
1945. UN conference in San Francisco.
1946. Sixth U.S. Army occupied both barracks 38 and 39.
1946. Western Defense Command inactivated.
1946. UN Committee inspected PSF as possible site for UN headquarters.
1947. Crissy Field barracks (650) named Stilwell Hall. At one time it was headquarters for the
California Military District.
1948. Officers' quarters 401-425 built on Washington Blvd.
1950. Building 36 was post headquarters for PSF.
1950. Harmon Hall, San Francisco U.S. Army Reserve Center, built in Crissy Field.
1951. May 13. Two children killed in fire at Ft. Scott (1290).
1951. PSF service club (135) site of definitive peace treaty with Japan signed by UN.
1951. Building 215 built as a bus stop.
1951. Flagstaff erected on site of Pershing house, Pershing Square.
1952-1953. Wherry housing constructed, first called Presidio Park Apartments.
1952. A three-block-long wire fence erected on top of stone wall bordering Lyon St. Controversy.
1952. Catholic chapel reconstructed.
1954. NIKEs are coming to San Francisco.
1956. PSF regained control of golf course. Installed automatic watering system.
1957. Crissy Field BOQ (951) was WAC officers' quarters. By 1965 it was transient quarters for enlisted
1957. Sixth Army Band lived in Barracks 100 while the Provost Marshal's office was in former band
barracks 106. Special Services was in old gymnasium (122) and the post dispensary occupied the old
post hospital (2).
1960. Paul R. Goode Athletic Field designated.
1960. PSF became a National Historic Landmark. Certificate awarded in 1963.
1964. U.S. acquired Wherry housing.
1964. Service Club (135) became NCOs' Open Mess.
1967. ADP & Communications Center (34) built.
1967. Stilwell Hall (650) used as Sixth Army Stock Control Center.
1969-70. Golden Gate U. S. Army Reserve Center (1750) 'built.
1970. Plans to enlarge Catholic chapel.
1971. Golden Gate National Recreation Area established.
1972-73. Addition to Officers' Club (50), $1.25 million.
1972. Boy Scouts of America planted 1,200 coastal Redwoods. All died.
1974. Redwoods replaced by 250 Giant Sequoia.
1974. Presidio Army Museum established in 2.
1976-77. Most buildings in Area A, lower Presidio, most recently occupied by Letterman, demolished.
1976. Letterman buildings 1026 (administration and supply) and 1028 (enlisted women's barracks) built.
1976. Stables (663) converted to post veterinarian & food inspection.
Stables (668) converted to family housing furniture warehouse.
Stables (661) used as MARS warehouse & Boy Scouts.
Stables (667) used as a warehouse. By 1988 there was temporary quarters in one end.
1980. Enlisted personnel moved from PSF to Fort Scott: 1204 and 1206 male soldiers; 1205 female
soldiers; 1214 administration.
1982. Barracks 105 converted to Federal Emergency Management Agency.
1982. Barracks 103 used by Post Comptroller Office and Finance & Accounting Office.
1983. Barracks 102 planned for conversion to general purpose administration. Completed 1986.
1983. Barracks 104 planned for conversion to finance administration.
1984. Joe R. McBride, Forest Management Plan for the Presidio and East Fort Baker.
1985. Plans to renovate guardhouse (210) for bank and credit union purposes. But credit union
remained in 229.
1987. New commissary.
1988. New bowling alley.
Note is made that former BOQ 42, now Senior Officers' Transient Quarters, has three names:
East wing - Hardie Hall (Maj. James A. Hardie, commanding officer of PSF, March 1847-
Center section - Pershing Hall - Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing, commanding general, 8th
Infantry Brigade, PSF, January 13- April 23, 1914). Later, General of the Armies.
West wing - Keyes Hall (Capt. Erasmus D. Keyes, commanding officer, PSF,
November 1849-Novembcr 1855).
1866. Two cemeteries at PSF, earlier one in laundresses' quarters area, not then used; newer one at
future national cemetery site.
1873. Three enlisted men died at PSF. One officer, killed in Modoc War, buried at PSF.
1874. Two enlisted men at PSF died.
1879. List of 144 internments prepared.
1884. Named the San Francisco National Cemetery. 9.5 acres. 231 internments of which 13 were
1885. List of 181 [sic] interments prepared.
1896. "New Addition", 6 acres, added.
1904. 4,563 internments. Rubblestone wall on three sides. Iron railing on front (north).
1905. Gateway and 604 linear feet of wall built.
1906. 5,367 internments in 5,281 graves.
1919. Section A added, 3.5 acres.
1924. Section B added, 2.034 acres.
1926. Five year improvement plan. Lodge converted from two-story gable to Mission Revival; remove
stable and remove lavatory.
1929. Removed main gates and placed them at new west entrance.
1930. Completion report. Converted lodge from two-story gable roof structure to one story "Spanish
Mission Style." Constructed new comfort station and garage, both one story.
1928. Section C added, 2.034 acres. Now 8,937 known dead and 510 unknown.
1930. Administration switched from Depot Quartermaster, Fort Mason, to CG, Ninth Corps Area, PSF.
1931. Pathologist reported on state of vegetation.
1931. Roads resurfaced from macadam to asphaltic.
1931. New gates at main entrance.
1932. Sections D and E added, 5.124 acres. Total now 28 acres.
1933. 13,257 internments, of whom 600 were officers, plus women and children.
1933. More road upgrading, $5,900.
1934. American War Mothers, San Francisco, monument dedicated.
1934. Lincoln Memorial Tablet moved from wall of lodge to rostrum.
1934. Unknown Soldier grave prepared and marked - 517 unknowns from throughout the cemetery.
1935. Major wind storm damage.
1938. 16,918 graves of known and 510  unknowns.
1942. "War relic" armament removed for salvage.
1943. Storm damage, $3,150.
1946. 20,913 internments
ca. 1947. Cemetery closed to additional burials, except reserved.
1955. A report this year stated that the cemetery contained 230 bodies, believed to be Spanish and
Mexican, that were removed from other PSF spots.
1961. Plans to expand cemetery by 26 acres rescinded.
1898. General hospital authorized. First return of U.S. Army General Hospital was dated December 31,
1899. Construction. Pavilion type, ten 40-bed wards, $113,400.
1899. CO complained about dusty roads, sea too near, and obnoxious insects.
1899-1900. First year, 5,390 patients.
1901. President McKinley visited.
1901. Army Nurse Corps established (Nurses commissioned in 1920).
1901. First two officers' quarters built. 1000 for the commanding officer, 1001 a duplex. Completed in
1901. Fire destroyed one third of hospital.
1901. X-ray lab added.
1902. Measles epidemic, 18 deaths.
1904. Operating pavilion built, $22,000.
1905. Dental work added to mission.
1906. Earthquake. Commanding general of the hospital took charge of San Francisco's sanitation.
1906. Second fire.
1911. Hospital named for Maj. Jonathan Letterman, Civil War surgeon.
1911. Dental Corps established.
1911-1914. Average of 3,000 patients annually.
1915. Orthopedic work began at Letterman.
1917. 1,200 beds.
1918-19. East Hospital built, 19 wards, 40 patients each; 5 barracks for staff,; and one nurse's dorm.
1918. Army School of Nursing established at Letterman.
WWI. Orthopedic Center, American Expeditionary Force, France; Division of Neurology and
Psychiatry; venereal diseases; prison ward.
1919. 2,200 beds. During year 12,400 patients. Ill deaths. Staff: 50 officers, 131 nurses, 656 enlisted
men, and 187 civilians.
1922. 750 beds, emergency 1,200 beds. Wooden structures being replaced by concrete ones.
1823. One ward converted to six sets of quarters for married NCOs.
1924. Intern program began.
1929. Recommendation that all wooden structures and stucco buildings be replaced.
1933. CCC patients added to load. Now 5,000 patients yearly.
1938. $345,000 WPA funds for Letterman.
1941. August. First issue of Foghorn.
1941. Letterman became debarkation hospital.
WWII. Letterman took over 200 area or Area A in lower Presidio.
WWII. 3,500 beds.
1944. WACs assigned.
1944. Hospital Train Unit authorized. Ill hospital cars. Four full trains leaving daily via the Crissy
1945. 72,000 patients that year, including almost 1,000 ex-POWs.
1946. General of the Army, Dwight Eisenhower visited.
1948. Building 1062 converted to 500-scat theater.
1948. Letterman still occupied 43 buildings in lower Presidio. This area now called "Debarkation
1948. Bowling alley put in building 1066. 1949, August 22, 300,000th patient admitted.
1950. A hospital train unit ordered to Letterman (Korean War).
Korean War. 1,500 beds. 16,000 admissions, of which 28% were battle casualties.
1950. Name changed to Letterman Army Hospital.
1956. Letterman acquired PSF stables 668 to use as an animal laboratory.
1957. Earthquake. Little damage.
1957. 875 beds. Emergency, 4,000 beds. Professional teaching hospital, residency and internship
programs. Staff, 1,300.
1957. 125 numbered buildings (57 permanent, 21 semi-permanent, 47 temporary).
1957. Four railroad tracks in yard. Could accommodate 13 hospital cars.
1960. Letterman's gym and pool open to all PSF. (Built WWII?)
1961. Capacity 1,000 beds. Emergency, 3,500 beds. Cost of construction, including improvements, to
date, $4.6 million. Value of installed equipment, $2.5 million. Staff, 1,554 military and 672 civilians.
1966. Lower Presidio buildings for convalescent patients, city personnel, enlisted students, and
1966. Western Medical Research Laboratory established at Letterman (now LAIR).
1966. Viet Nam casualties flown into Travis AFB then helicoptered to PSF.
1968. Letterman's new building (LAMC) completed in May. 550 beds, ten floors, $14.8 million.
1969. Staff, 1,800.
1972-73. About fifteen buildings, both 200 and 1000, demolished. Plan for elimination of all older
1973. Bob Hope visited in December.
1973. Ex-POWs from Viet Nam passing through. Two of them accused of being turncoats trouble with
1973-1977. LAIR buildings completed.
1977. Continuing demolition of 1000 buildings.
1979. New enlisted women's barracks (1028) and administration building (1027) completed.
1907. Army Signal Corps established an Aeronautical Division with three men and one aircraft, which
1914. Congress authorized creation of the Aviation Section, Signal Corps. A flying school established
on North Island, San Diego (Rockwell Field).
1918. Congress authorized construction of air coast defense stations. Only one built - Miller Field,
1918. Air Service established. Soon had 200,000 personnel. At that time, North Cantonment temporary
buildings covered the east half of lower Presidio.
1919. Transcontinental Reliability Race, New York to San Francisco's Marina. Maj. Dana Crissy in the
race. Killed returning to the East.
1919. Col. H.H. Arnold, Air Service Officer, Western Department, San Francisco, requested the removal
of ten buildings from North Cantonment as a menace to aircraft landing in the western part of lower
1920. Air Service made a combatant arm of the Army and reduced to 10,000 personnel.
1920. Army aircraft transferred to Presidio.
1920. The name "Crissy Field" appeared in Air Service News Letter. Planes from there took aerial photos
of Forts Baker and Barry.
1920. Post Office Dept. (Aerial Mail Service) given permission to use Crissy Field. Did not at that time.
1920. Plans developed for Crissy Field facilities.
1921. Announcement that Crissy would be an Air Service Coast Defense Station.
1921. June 24. Crissy Field completed and turned over to Air Service. Hap Arnold moved from the
Santa Fe building in San Francisco to the second floor of the new administration building (651)
1921. Post Office again given permission to use Crissy and to build one hangar. (640).
1922. Porches on officers' quarters were glassed and a sleeping room and a sun porch added to rears
(the buildings were too small)
1922. A steel hangar added.
1922. Transcontinental flight of army dirigible C-2 arrived at Crissy. (Destroyed when returning East.)
1922. The 91st Squadron (Observation) and Aerial Photo Section 15, Crissy Field, were the only active
Air Service organizations in Ninth Corps Area.
1923. Another new hangar. (Rockwell Field closed by then.)
1923. The 36 buildings in North Cantonment used by the Fort Mason Supply Depot were a nuisance
to Crissy's operations. Some were demolished before end of year.
1924. Newly cleared land in eastern lower Presidio transferred to Crissy.
1924. First Dawn to Dusk flight from Long Island, NY, landed at Crissy.
1924. Radio and Communications building (966) too far from operations. Radio moved to the field.
1924. The Coast Guard Life Saving Station in the road. Willing to move but no money. (An air officer
complained that the Coast Guard was too slow whenever a Crissy plane crashed in the water.)
1925. U.S. Navy at Crissy. Preparing for first flight to Hawaii.
1926. Air Service became U.S. Army Air Corps.
1926. Runway, then called the landing field, resurfaced, and extended 1,000 feet.
1927. Post Office gave its hangar to Army. Army converted the 80' x 100' building into ROTC barracks.
1928. Concrete "fence" built along bluff at west end of field. Beautified the bay shore drive and made
the road safer. This was the road from headquarters to officers' row.
1928. Crissy Field only Regular Army field in Ninth Corps Area. There were six Reserve fields.
1928. Runway graded and dragged.
1928. Extensive plans for new quarters and barracks, a hangar-gym, seawall, etc. Not carried out.
1930. Crissy to be abandoned, too small, dangerous wind currents.
1931. East end of lower Presidio became a polo field. Landing field now 3050 feet long, 400 feet wide.
1931. 78 accidents at Crissy since 1921.
1932. Recommendation to replace present wood stave drains installed by the Panama Pacific Exposition
in 1915 with terra cotta pipe, (both sanitary and storm drains)
1933. In general, housing was satisfactory but deteriorating rapidly due to poor construction and the
blasting in connection with construction of Golden Gate Bridge.
1934. "Weather proof" landing mat built. 2,000 feet long and 200 feet wide. Taxiway from west end of
mat to hangars. 7 inches crushed rock, covered with coat of leveling rock rolled and crushed, topped
with l>/2 inch natural rock asphalt, rolled and packed tight.
1935. Discussion whether to enlarge Crissy or abandon it. The new "asphalt" landing and takeoff strip
1936. June 30. Crissy Field abandoned. Field restricted to emergency landings only.
Post 1936. Crissy Field administration building (651) became the headquarters for both PSF and the
30th Infantry Regiment.
1937. 20 sections of Golden Gate Bridge safety net recovered from San Francisco Bay are spread out
on Crissy Field for reclamation.
1937. Army stopped using term "Crissy Field" and referred to the area as "Lower Post."
1938. WPA funds used to landscape, paint, and to resurface (with what?) 400,000 square feet of
1957. Field now important to Sixth Army headquarters and to guided missile air communications
(NIKE). New runway to be built along the beach.
1958. Steel and glass flight control tower transferred to the field from Castle AFB. Crissy reactivated
for small aircraft and helicopters (possibly before 1958 but after 1953).
1959. 16 military aircraft authorized. Also 8 civilian aircraft at field.
1960. The runway now a flexible pavement runway 2,500 feet long and 50 feet wide.
1959. Need to remove WWII buildings at east end of lower Presidio. Plans prepared for a 5,000 foot
runway. Still other plans for a runway 3,100 feet by 75 feet.
1960. Runway extension completed (dimensions unknown). Still dangerous.
1966. Plans to remove all buildings in east lowej Presidio (Letterman 200 buildings) and extend
runway to Lyon Street.
1972. Recommendation to restrict all fixed-wing aircraft and convert to a heliport for use of VIP or
Medical Evacuation only.
1974. Closure date was 2400 hours, Feb. 14, 1974.
1986. Nakata Planning Group, Bay Front Area Site Development Plan, $5 million.
1988. NPS Advisory Commission approved plan.
Coast Guard Station 323
1878. Congress authorized the Life Saving Service.
1886. Fort Point LSS authorized.
1888. War Department permitted land in lower Presidio to Treasury Department.
1888. Plans prepared for Fort Point LSS.
1889. Contract awarded in February. To be completed by September 1, 1889.
1889. Buildings completed in October. Launchways not started.
1890. Fence constructed around LSS, part picket, part barbed wire.
1890. February, LSS completed. House and fence painted white.
1891. War Department gave permit for LSS to construct a lookout at Fort Point.
1909. Map of PSF showed 3 unnamed structures plus a launchway.
1912. Map of PSF showed 2 unnamed structures plus a launchway.
1914. Became U.S. Coast Guard Station 323.
ca. 1914. Station moved 700 feet farther west and a new steel launchway installed ($19,000). Land area:
300 feet by 150 feet.
1919. This date given for construction of the station building, 55 feet square. (Not verified. An Air
Service letter dated Oct. 8, 1919, mentioned this building. See entry for 1981 below.)
1920. Air Service wanted the station moved - a danger to aircraft. Treasury willing, but no money.
$73,000 to move.
1925. Photos of station in San Francisco Chronicle, October 18, 1925. Three boats inside building.
1930. Station got one of the new, modern, high-powered, seagoing life saving boats.
1940. Not until 1940 did PSF issue a permit for the station in its present site. The metes and bounds
1952. Growing importance of this station because others in Bay Area were being closed. Coast Guard
requested additional land 150 feet wide from Army for the erection of shops.
1957. A map showed: garage, dwelling, station building, storehouse, shop, ammunition storehouse,
and, at the end of the pier, a buoy shack with latrine.
1963. Crew of 26. Four boats: two 40-foot speedboats, two 36-foot motor lifeboats. Marine railway.
1970s. Late 1970s Fort Point the only station still in operation in the Bay Area.
1970. Area was 14.70 acres including tidelands. PSF permitted the construction of a hangar for two Air
Cushion Vehicles (ACV).
1972. Marine railway abandoned.
1972. Buildings: SF 19 Boathouse
SF 15 Electric Repair Shop
CG 1 Engineer /Mtl(?) Shops
CG 2 Crew Berth /Administration Office
CG 3 CO residence
CG 4 CO garage
CG 6 ACV Hangar
CG 10 Standby generator room
ACV ramp and apron Pier
Dock and boat house (two 44-foot MLBs)
1973. USCG gave up air cushion boats.
1974. Remnants of marine railway removed.
1977. Description: main building 8,100 sq. ft.
boatswain's locker 500
two-story house 2,100
former ACV hangar 5,100
wood, pile catwalk 341 feet long with 400 sq. ft. boathouse.
1981. GSA report stated that the main building was constructed in 1915.
1983. Main building renovated.
1984. By now the USCG was in the Department of Transportation.
1984. USCG planning new pier and offshore breakwater.
CG 2 station house, "pre-1915", wood frame, 4 stories
CG 3 OINC quarters, ca. 1890, wood frame, 2 stories
CG 4 garage, ca. 1890, wood frame, 1 story
CG 6 ACV hangar, 1970, metal, 1 story
CG 1 carpenter shop, 1930s, wood frame, 1 story
CG 15 paint locker, ca. 1930s, wood frame, 1 story
CG 10 emergency generator building, n.d., wood frame, 1 story
CG 19 boat house, n.d., wood frame, 1 story
CG 7 access pier, ca. 1932, wood frame
CG 20 small boat dock, ca. 1930s
CG 12 seawall bulkhead, 1935, concrete
1990. Establishment ceremony for U.S. Coast Guard Station Golden Gate, East Fort Baker.
18th Century. Spaniards said to have gotten water from a spring in front of Infantry Terrace (tunnel
ruins found there in 1910) and from a spring in West Cantonment (today's El Polin). There was another
spring near the intersection of Lyon and Vallejo streets.
1853. Mountain Lake Water Company formed. Failed.
1857. San Francisco City Water Works formed. Acquired the Lobos Creek Ranch. Changed its name
to Spring Valley Water Works. Built flume from Lobos Creek to Fort Point to foot of Van Ness.
1857. War Department installed pump at the flume where the PX was (1930). Water was pumped to
reservoirs at south end of the main post, then piped to quarters.
1865. Earthquake damage to flume.
1869. Spring Valley supplied water to PSF, Fort Point, and Point San Jose without cost to Army.
1877. Lobos Creek supplied 2 million gallons daily.
1877. Water from flume to main post raised by a steam pump and forced through 2,600 feet of 6-inch
pipe to a reservoir at the south end of post.
1887. Water for Fort Point was obtained from a spring on hillside southeast of the fort and from a
reservoir on PSF's Telegraph Hill. Reservoir was supplied from Spring Valley flume via windmill. This
was also water source for the National Cemetery. Also, a windmill at the pond in the southeast corner
of the reservation and another near Arguello entrance supplied water for sprinkling roads and for
1894. Spring Valley Company notified Army that it was abandoning the Lobos Creek water system.
1894-95. War Department instituted a pumping station. Bored a series of deep wells.
1904. Wells: one 16-inch well, eight 20-inch wells, and one 45-inch well, combined capacity 13,100
gallons per hour.
1904. PSF supplied Fort Baker and Angel Island with water.
1904. Consumption was 156,116 gallons per day for domestic use and 74,139 gallons per day for fire
1904. Necessary to connect to city main permanently.
1910. New pumping station at mouth of Lobos Creek. 6-million gallon reservoir built 1912.
1911. Inspection report. New pumping plant supplied all PSF except East Cantonment. Also Fort
Mason, Letterman, harbor boats, and bay posts. East Cantonment supplied by a private company.
1912. April-June 1912, government plant pumped 95,350,000 gallons. Army purchased 2,621,000 gallons
from Spring Valley Water Co.
1931. Severe shortage of water from Lobos Creek and getting worse. Rationing imposed. More wells
Structures vicinity of Presidio Hill:
313 reservoir, 6 million gallons, 1912
311 pump house 1914
310 valve house 1912
315 pump house (golf course) 1921
Vicinity of plant, Lobos Creek
1770 reservoir 1910
1771 valve house 1910
1773 filtration plant 1910
1776 treatment plant 1912
1779 treatment plant 1912
1778 settling tank 1911
1781 quarters 1911
1782 garage 1911
1788 well 1925
1789 well 1935
1783 well 1939
Sally B. Woodbridge, Discussion of Architectural Styles, Presidio of San Francisco
Webster's dictionary defines style as the "specific or characteristic manner of expression,
execution, construction or design in any art. . . ." In architecture, style appears in the massing,
proportions, materials, structural and decorative details, or ornament, of buildings. Over time,
the reuse of these elements - particularly materials and ornament - in new combinations has
blurred the identity of many styles. Hence, precise definitions of styles that can be readily
applied to all buildings are difficult to formulate. The penchant for mixing elements of various
styles into eclectic versions that defy description was strong in the 19th and 20th century
decades when many of the Presidio buildings were built. The military's approach to
architectural design was conservative; traditional styles were favored and usually simplified
through a limited use of decorative detail. Moreover, the widespread use of standard plans for
residential and administrative buildings on military bases is evidence that stylistic innovation
in architectural design did not have a high priority. This conservatism doubtless arose from
the de-emphasis on the military in this country and the desire not to offend private citizens
by a conspicuous display of wealth in military buildings. Structures associated with technology
might be innovative and expensive, as, for example, in the dirigible hangars built at the U.S.
Navy's Moffett Field, but buildings for human habitation were generally spartan. Thus, at the
Presidio, where most of the buildings are residential and even non-residential buildings from
the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century have a residential scale, the architecture is
stylistically restrained. This situation was acknowledged in 1907 by Major Harts who observed
in his report on the expansion and development of the Presidio that, "It is well known . . . that
the architecture of government buildings on Military posts has in the past unfortunately
always been of a needlessly plain character." Major Harts urged that "old stock patterns" not
be used, and stated that, "It is believed that the best results will be obtained ... for the
Presidio by employing skillful competent civilian architects." Despite this admonition, the only
local architect whose name has come to light so far is that of W. H. Wilcox, who laid out the
quadrangle of hospital buildings constructed between 1899 and 1902, before Major Harts came
to the Presidio. Since the Presidio's spectacular natural setting contributes immeasurably to an
overall harmony of buildings and landscape, style plays a lesser but nonetheless important role
in broadening our understanding of the history of this military reservation.
The Classical Revival styles that accompanied the birth of our nation are dominant at the
Presidio; imported styles such as the Italianatc and the Queen Anne that were fashionable in
the late 19th century are relatively rare. Colonial Revival, an umbrella term that describes most
of the buildings at the Presidio, refers to those styles that recall this country's history from the
colonial period through the early year's of the republic. The various substyles that do occur
on the Presidio: late Federal, Georgian Revival, Mission Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, and
Mediterranean Revival (also called Italian Renaissance Revival) occur in eclectic versions that
often defy precise definition. The constants of colors and materials, articulation of form, and
characteristic details give an overall continuity to the Presidio buildings.
Late Creek Revival, Federal, and Italianate Styles, ca. 1860-1880s
Characteristics: Rectangular, gable-roofed volumes which have a horizontal emphasis.
Buildings often have a raised basement with flights of steps leading to entrances and porches.
Facades which have openings composed symmetrically, often with a central, cross-gabled
element, and plans typically organized around a central hall.
Roofs which have overhanging eaves, and entablatures which may have the three elements of
architrave, frieze, and cornice or may be abbreviated by the omission of the frieze or architrave
molding. Cornices are typically enclosed or "boxed" to hide the rafter-ends and may be plain
or enriched with molding.
The gable-ends may have "raking" cornices, that is, moldings which trace the outline of the
triangular gable-end, or cornices which have the horizontal member broken in the middle
leaving short members called "returns" on each side.
Window heads which have straight, triangular, or segmental, molded heads.
Porch columns and pilasters that use the Classical orders: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and
Building 2, the Wright Army or Post Hospital, 1864
This building has a rectangular plan with wards opening off through halls; the hip roof had
a low pitch and a Classical entablature with an overhanging, boxed and molded cornice. The
building is clad with narrow weatherboard, or lapped, siding, and the two story porch across
the front has Tuscan columns with square, chamfered shafts and a balustrade with turned
The above elements are common to both the Federal and the Italianiate styles. The 1897
octagonal addition to the hospital is faithful to the original. Not illustrated are Barracks 86-87,
1864, which are in a more simplified late Federal style.
IB. Building 2, Wright Army or Post Hospital, 1864. Late Federal /Italianate
Buildings 5-16, Officers' Quarters, 1860s to 1880s
These cottage-like quarters have an upright-and-wing form and minimal Greek Revival detail
that occurs in the boxed cornices with returns on the gable roofs and the split-columns on the
porch. Split-columns were made of boards set apart and given simple molded caps and bases;
wood sticks with decorative patterns called spacers are set between the boards. The porch
railings have a crossed-stick pattern, which was more typical of Georgian /Federal Revival
styling than Greek Revival, which tended to use sticks or turned balusters in porch railings.
The buildings have narrow weatherboard siding and polygonal bays on the front of the wings,
which were later additions in the Italianate style.
2B. Buildings 8, 9, and 10, Officers' Quarters, Main Post, 1862. Late
3B. Building 10, Officers' Quarters, Main Post. Dormers
added in 1870s, porch railing is not original.
4B. Building 11, Officers' Quarters, Main Post, detail of
split columns on porch.
Building 57, Officers' Quarters, 1885
This is one of four buildings that arc the only examples on the Presidio of the very popular
Queen Anne style. The L-plan and combination of cut shingles and horizontal siding is typical
of the Queen Anne style; the angled roof brackets and knee-braces on the porch columns
indicate the influence of the so-called Stick style. The Queen Anne style was very popular in
San Francisco; elaborate ornament became a hallmark of the style in the late 1880s and 1890s
in city neighborhoods such as the Western Addition.
Building 57, Officers' Quarters, Main Post, 1885. Stick/Queen Anne.
Building 64, Officers' Family Housing, 1889
A cottage-like building representative of the late Federal /Italianate style with a hip roof and
a front porch which has a molded cornice, Tuscan columns, and a crossed-stick railing. The
channeled siding is more typical of the Italianate than the narrow weatherboard siding used
on the buildings discussed above. These residences were patterned after buildings at Fort
Thomas in the Arizona Territory.
6B. Building 64, Officers' Quarters, Main Post, 1889. Late Italianate.
Colonial Revival: ca. 1895-ca. 1920
Interest in the country's colonial past whetted by the centennial expositions produced
variations on the Georgian and Federal styles that differed from the more Classical Greek
Revival and Italianate styles.
Characteristics: Rectangular volumes, symmetrically composed with gable, hip, or gambrel
roofs. Roofs may not have full entablatures but usually have decorative brackets or modillions,
or shaped rafter-ends.
Wood-frame buildings have narrow weatherboards; brick was commonly used in the east,
south, and midwestern parts of the country.
Buildings have a variety of Classical detail in columns, pilasters, cornice moldings,
entablatures with dentil courses, and ornamental cartouches, sometimes in trefoil and
quatrefoil openings. The use of round or hemispherical bulls-eye openings called lunettes
gable-ends was common. Windows and doors were given Classical details in their architraves
Buildings 101-105, Enlisted Miens' Barracks with Mess
These buildings are irregularly shaped, two-and-one-half story structures that appear as
rectangular blocks from the front. They have hip-roofs with hip-and-gable dormers; their roofs
have simplified entablatures with modillions supporting molded cornices. The walls are brick
above a rock-faced stone base; the one-story porches across the front have modified Tuscan
columns. Windows have wood sash and doors are set in reveals with relieving arches as heads.
The general massing, the provision of a base for the living floors, the hip-roof, and use of
columned porches and entablatures with overhanging eaves on shaped blocks are all
indications of the Colonial /Georgian Revival style. However, instead of the elaborate versions
of this mode built in the private sector, this is a much simplified version that was also built
in urban neighborhoods around the turn of the century and is often called the Classic or
Colonial Box. The economical Colonial Box was usually built in wood and thus has a much
less substantial appearance. An interesting feature of these barracks is the use of rounded or
rolled corners on the dormers. Such rounded forms were typical of the Shingle style, also in
vogue at this time.
' "V fa
Enlisted Men's Barracks 101-105, Main Post, 1895. Colonial Revival.
Building 42, Pershing Hall, 1903
Pershing Hall has a T-plan with long, rectangular main block. The hip-and-gable roof has a
central cross-gabled wing with returns and a Classical entablature with a dentil course and a
molded cornice on modilians. The walls are of brick with stone used for details such as the
window head with raised keystones and the lunette with a stone architrave and raised
keystone on the central wing. The building is also set on a raised base with a water table, and
the porches have Tuscan columns and balustrades.
8B. Building 42, Pershing Hall, Main Post, 1903. Colonial Revival.
Building 682, E.M. Barracks, 1902
This building is similar to Pershing Hall but constructed of wood. The distinctive feature here
is the Palladian, or Venetian, window centered in the gable-ends. This a tri-part window with
the central section wider than the side sections and surmounted by a lunette with a raised
9B. Building 682, Cavalry Barracks, 1902. Colonial Revival.
Building 1000, Officers' Family Housing at Letterman Hospital, 1902
This building bears such a striking resemblance to the Officer Family Housing at Fort Worden
in Washington state, ca 1902, (even the fenestration is the same) that it would seem certain that
they were built from the same plans. Here too a Palladian window is set in the gable-end, and
Classical moldings with dentil courses occur.
10B. Building 1000, Officers' Quarters, Letterman General Hospital, 1902. Colonial
The Enlisted Family Housing, 124A and B, 1909
This rectangular brick building has a gable-roof with returns on its molded cornice and a
lunene in the gable-end. The wooden front porch has a Classical entablature with Tuscan
columns and a stick railing. It appears to have set the general style for others in this area that
are more elaborate.
11B. Noncommissioned Officers' Quarters 124A and B, Main Post, 1909. Colonial
Building 129 A and B, 1933
This building is later than Building 124A and B but has the same form and is recognizably
related to it. Building 129A and B is slightly larger and has enclosed double entry porches with
glazed doors and round-arched transoms with fanlights characteristic of the Georgian Revival
mode. The porches also have a flaring metal roof that recalls Regency Revival styling.
12B. Noncommissioned Officers' Quarters 129A and B, Main Post, 1933. Colonial
Fort Point Coast Guard Station, Main Building
This is the only example of a building in the Dutch Colonial Revival style, which typically has
a gambrel roof. The building also has an interesting variation on the Tuscan order in its porch
columns with a cushion-like capitals.
13B. Fort Point Coast Guard Station, Officer's Quarters. Dutch Colonial Revival.
14B. Fort Point Coast Guard Station, Entrance to Officer's Quarters.
Mission Revival ca. 1890-1912
The California version of this style first appeared shortly before 1890 and spread across the
country after 1900. It enjoyed its greatest popularity around 1910 and declined thereafter
because of the influence of the Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean Revival styles that were
used in the buildings of the 1915 Pan Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and the
Panama Pacific Exposition in San Diego of the same year
Characteristics: rectangular forms with the ground floors often arcaded. Covered arcades of
corridor's often extend from the buildings.
Materials are typically stucco over wood frame with the stucco, often built-tip unevenly and
trowelled to mimic adobe, and concrete for building walls; roofs are generally of terra cotta
tile, or, if mineral roofing is used, the color is typically red to suggest tile.
Major openings often have round arched without architrave moldings. The most common
decorative feature is the scrolled or stepped gable taken directly from the mission churches.
Quatrefoil and star-shaped windows centered in the gable-ends are also typical.
E.M. Barracks 1216, Fort Winfield Scott, 1912
One of the series of barracks that surround the parade ground, Building 1216 has tiled roofs
with scrolled, or curvilinear, gable parapets, and an arcaded section on the ground floor. The
building is composed of a long, rectangular block with cross-wings at the ends; the light-
colored walls are planar and devoid of moldings.
15B. Building 1216, Enlisted Men's Barracks, Fort Winfield Scott, 1912. Mission
Building 1201, Fort Winfield Scott, the Coast Artillery District Headquarters, 1912
This headquarters building has the same stylistic features as the barracks described above but
is embellished with a pointed trefoil window centered in the scrolled gable-end and an
ornamental wrought-iron balcony railing over the main entrance.
Building 650, Stilwell Hall at Crissy Field, 1921, has the same basic form and characteristic
elements that appear on the earlier Fort Scott buildings (not illustrated).
16B. Building 1201, Headquarters, Fort Winfield Scott, 1912. Mission Revival.
17B. Building 650, Enlisted Men's Barracks, Crissy Field, 1921. Mission Revival.
Italian Mediterranean, or Italian Renaissance Revival style
Building 1226, Gymnasium, 1911
This building combines the Mission Revival style with the Italian Mediterranean or
Renaissance Revival style. The former appears in the scrolled gable-ends and pediment over
the main entrance. Italian Mediterranean influences appear in the round-arched windows and
the paired, shaped brackets supporting a cornice board that in turn supports the rafter-ends
of the roof overhang.
18B. Building 1226, Gymnasium, Fort Winfield Scott,
1911. Mission/Italian Renaissance Revival.
Buildings 1224, Infirmary, 1912
The building employs the same support system for the roof overhang as Building 1226 but
does not have the Mission-Revival style scrolled gable-ends. Its blocky style recalls Italian
19B. Building 1224, Infirmary, Fort Winfield Scott, 1912. Mission /Italian
Building 1213, Post Stockade, 1912
Stylistically, this structure is also more in the Italian Renaissance Revival than the Mission
Revival style with its strong blocky form and roof overhang supported on double-brackets
interspersed with frieze panels that have a raised diamond motif in the center. Segmental
arches over the ground-floor openings are also characteristic of this variation on the
20B. Building 1213, Post Stockade, Fort Winfield Scott, 1912. Mission /Italian
Building 35, E.M. Barracks, 1912
Located just off the Main Parade Ground, this building is another variation on the Italian
Mediterranean or Renaissance mode and has a more Classical entablature than Building 1213,
which uses the same frieze panels. The roof has a shallow overhang, which is not supported
21B. Building 35, Enlisted Men's Barracks, Main Post, 1912. Italian Renaissance
Colonial/Georgian Revival, ca. 1912-1941
The same building campaign that introduced the Mission and Italian Renaissance Revival
styles at Fort Scott also incorporated an eclectic version of the Georgian Revival style in the
Officer Family Housing of 1912 along Kobbe Avenue. Here brick is used, sometimes in rich
brickwork, and details are more elaborate, as in the geometric wood balustrades of porches
and balconies. Some of the buildings continue the influence of the Mediterranean styles in
having tiled roofs.
Building 1314, Officers' Family Housing, 1912
The blocky form and roof of this building closely resembles Building 1224, described above,
except that 1314 has dormers and walls, of brick. The porches of the two buildings are
basically the same, but whereas 1224 has a wrought-iron balcony railing over the entrance
porch with square corner piers and simple detailing the porch of 1314 has the Classical
detailing typical of the Colonial /Georgian Revival style with paired columns, a Classical
entablature with modillions, and a balcony railing with geometric motifs and paneled corner
elements. The raised terrace also has a characteristic stick railing with paneled corner piers.
The wooden elements are painted white to contrast with the brick walls, which is also typical
of the Georgian Revival mode.
22B. Building 1314, Officers' Quarters, Fort Winfield Scott, 1912. Colonial /Georgian
Building 1334, Officers' Quarters, 1912
Larger than Building 1314, this building is also elaborately detailed with a two-story front
porch flanked by polygonal bays. The white-painted wooden detail of the porch and end bays
is like that on 1314. The building has a tiled roof and dormer that are more typical of
23B. Building 1334, Officers' Quarters, Fort Winfield Scott, 1912. Colonial /Georgian
Building 1337, General Officer's Quarters, 1915
This building is a more straightforward version of the Georgian Revival style without the
admixture of Mediterranean elements that the preceding two buildings exhibit. The pitch of
the hip roof is higher, the dormers and entrance porch have Classical detail typical of the
Georgian Revival mode, and the general form and appearance of the building conform more
closely to the conventional idea of the style.
24B. Building 1337, Commanding Officer's Quarters, Fort Winfield Scott, 1915.
Colonial /Georgian Revival.
Building 654, Guard House, 1921
This small structure neatly fuses the Colonial Revival and the Mediterranean Revival styles
together. The raised entrance has elements such as the columns and abbreviated broken
pediment that frame a door with a segmental pediment, sidelights, and fanlight borrowed from
the Georgian Revival vocabulary and applied to a stuccoed box with a tiled hip roof that is
associated with the Mediterranean Revival style.
25B. Building 654, Guardhouse, Crissy Field, 1921. Colonial /Mediterranean
Mediterranean Revival, ca. 1912-1941
California's Spanish Colonial heritage and its Mediterranean climate have been a continuing
source of architectural imagery. The variety of styles influenced by the architecture of the
Mediterranean region, which became popular about 1915, ranged from the formality of the
neo-Plateresque and neo-Churrigueresque to the informality of Andalusian farmhouses and
villas from Tuscany.
Characteristics: The same use of simple volumetric forms and plain surfaces with undecorated
openings as in the Mission Revival style. Light-colored walls in stucco or concrete with red
tiled roofs are also typical. The buildings in this eclectic mode have a striking continuity
despite variations in size and form.
Building 651, Administration Building, 1921
Composed with a main, two-story block flanked by one-story wings, this building employs the
vocabulary of materials and forms noted above.
26B. Building 651, Administration Building, Crissy Field, 1921. Mediterranean
Building 38, E.M. Barracks with Mess Hall, 1940
Much larger than 651, this building is composed with a main, gable-roofed block that
terminates in cross-gabled wings. The building is almost devoid of decorative detail but has
simple balconies with a strong geometry in slightly oversized brackets, paneled motifs on the
balcony wall and a hood molding over the window above.
27B. Building 38, Enlisted Men's Barracks, Main Post, 1940. Mediterranean Revival.
28B. Building 38, detail.
Building 551, Officer Family Housing, 1917
A stylistic variation on the Mediterranean theme stripped of the kind of decorative detail that
would tie it to more conventional Mediterranean styles, the building's planar quality and the
slight upward flare of the roof eaves recall residences designed by architects associated with
the midwestern Prairie School, which flourished at this time.
29B. Building 551, Officers' Quarters, Main Post, 1917. Mediterranean Revival.
Building 1332, Officers' Family Housing, 1943
This building reflects the popularity of the Spanish Colonial ranch house filtered through the
Andalusian farm house model that was fashionable in the 1920s. The long low, horizontal form
of the building with its tiled gable roof and wooden porch protecting from the upper story are
characteristic of this Spanish Colonial Revival mode.
30B. Building 1332, Officers' Quarters, Fort Winfield Scott, 1943. Mediterranean
Utilitarian: ca. 1900-1959
The majority of industrial and other functional buildings at the Presidio were either designed
without stylistic features or executed in very simplified versions of styles. However, their
massing, materials, windows and doors, and skylights gave them character; they are no less
recognizable for not having decorative elements. Forms are simple, typical materials are brick,
wood, board-and-batten siding and weatherboard siding, and corrugated metal siding.
Building 1339, Ordnance Repair Shop, 1900
The industrial use of this building doubtless dictated its simple form and minimal Classical
detailing in the returns on the boxed roof cornice. The rusticated stone base, brick walls, and
openings with simple relieving arches were used on other utilitarian buildings such as the
Cavalry Stables 662, described below.
31B. Building 1339, Ordnance Repair Shop, Fort Winfield Scott, 1900. Utilitarian.
Building 662, Cavalry Stables, 1914
The basilica form of these stables was commonly used wherever animals were housed. The
raised nave, or central section, with clerestory windows provided daylighting for the interior;
the shed-roofed side sections contained the stalls and feeding stations. The hoist above the
upper level door in the front was used to raise feed into the storage area.
32B. Building 32, Cavalry Stables, 1914. Utilitarian.
Building 210, Bank and Post Office, 1900
Originally a guard house, this rectangular brick structure has the same rusticated, or rock-face,
base and brick walls as Building 1339, but the hip roof with dormers and boxed cornice with
exposed rafter-ends is more typical of the Craftsman style. The stylistic features are so
simplified that the appearance of the building is more Utilitarian, as befits its use, than
33B. Building 210, Guardhouse, Main Post, 1900. Utilitarian.
Building 1227, Quartermaster Shop and Print Shop, 1917 and Buildings 924, 935, etc.
These buildings have quite plain exteriors dominated by the nature of their structure
34B. Building 1227, Quartermaster Shop, Fort Winfield Scott, 1917. Utilitarian.
35B. Building 924, Engineer Field Maintenance, Crissy Field, 1959. Utilitarian.
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San Francisco Examiner
Unidentified newspaper clippings by O.W. Degen, Quartermaster Department, Fort Mason:
"Development of the San Francisco Water Supply System; Part 1 - Original Sources" and "Supply
System; Part II - Spring Valley Co." OQMG, GCGF 1922-1935, RG 92, NA. Degen worked at Fort
Mason in the 1930s.
U.S. News and World Report, October 7, 1991.
As the nation's principal conservation agency, the Department of the Interior has responsibility for most of our
nationally owned public lands and natural and cultural resources. This includes fostering wise use of our land
and water resources, protecting our fish and wildlife, preserving the environmental and cultural values of our
national parks and historical places, and providing for the enjoyment of life through outdoor recreation. The
department assesses our energy and mineral resources and works to ensure that their development is in the
best interests of all our people. The department also promotes the goals of the Take Pride in America campaign
by encouraging stewardship and citizen responsibility for the public lands and promoting citizen participation
in their care. The department also has a major responsibility for American Indian reservation communities and
for people who live in island territories under U.S. administration.
Publication services were provided by Joan Huff, visual information technician, of the Branch of Publications
and Graphic Design of the Denver Service Center. NPSD-120 August 1992
U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service